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The economy was a strong reason why Americans went to the polls this election

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Numbers determine or show the shape of this election on this morning after Election Day. The first key number is 50. Fifty is what Democrats would need to control the United States Senate. Republicans would need 51 to take control. And I'm looking at the numbers at npr.org. Neither side yet has reached that margin. The Senate is undecided. So far, Democrats have gained one seat in Pennsylvania. Several races are still too close to call and could go either way. In the House of Representatives, the key number is 218. That's what you would need for a majority. Each side is below 200 at this point, with a large number of races still too close to call, although Republicans are considered favored there.

Now, what issues moved voters in yesterday's election? A big one, of course, as always, is the economy. And inflation, we know from surveys in the past, was a large factor. So let's talk that through. NPR chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley is with us. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So from the information that you have, how did inflation shape this voting?

HORSLEY: You know, every poll, including the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, showed that inflation was top of mind for voters going in to the ballot box, and that's not surprising. You know, inflation in September was 8.2%. We'll find out tomorrow what inflation was in October. But it's uncomfortably high.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

HORSLEY: We certainly know that. So clearly, voters are frustrated with inflation. I think what we're seeing in these election results, though, is that it didn't necessarily break along party lines. They didn't lay all the blame for inflation at the feet of the governing Democrats.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk that through. Was there a Democratic case for not being blamed for inflation, for saying, hey, this isn't really on me, or I'm trying the best I can? What was their case?

HORSLEY: Absolutely. I mean, the Republicans tried to suggest that inflation was completely the result of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that was passed on a party-line vote in the early months of the Biden administration by a Democratic-controlled Congress. And even some Democratic economists acknowledge that that was, you know, a contributing factor in today's high inflation.

INSKEEP: Sure.

HORSLEY: But if you look around the world, you see that, look - inflation is even higher in Europe. It's higher in the U.K. Inflation is a global problem, and that's largely the result of the lingering effects of the pandemic and, of course, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has upended both energy and food markets. And so I think - and at the same time, you didn't really have Republicans putting forward any meaningful plan to deal with inflation. So I think both of those things limited the gains that Republicans were able to earn from the inflation issue, even though it is a big concern for voters.

INSKEEP: Was there really that much that a Republican Congress conceivably could do about inflation? They could still be in charge here, we should note. Is there anything they could do about inflation?

HORSLEY: Well, whichever party is in control, they're going to probably not have a - either - if it's the Republicans, they're not going to have a veto-proof majority. They're probably not going to have 60 votes in the Senate for either party. So we're probably looking at a period of gridlock. As the business community is concerned, that's probably OK, but it's still going to leave most of the work on inflation in the hands of the Federal Reserve.

INSKEEP: As you and I were talking earlier in the morning, the markets are not open, but of course, there are futures markets and so forth. What are the markets saying about these results?

HORSLEY: Kind of shrug of the shoulders, I would say. Futures markets are down trivially. You know, we've seen some pretty wild swings. The market gyrated considerably yesterday as investors chewed over what might happen in the election. But I think this will be sort of a status quo as far as the markets are concerned. You know, it's certainly not a 2006-style thumping. It's not a 2010-style shellacking. It's maybe a little bit of touch-up paint and some fluffing of the couch cushions.

INSKEEP: And we should note, it's a big deal if either House changes, but if it does change, it's going to be by a fairly narrow margin. That seems apparent now. NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks so much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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