Asma Khalid

Asma Khalid is a political reporter. She travels the country focusing on voters through the lens of demographics and economics.

Before joining NPR's political team, Asma helped launch a new team for Boston's NPR station WBUR where she reported on biz/tech and the Future of Work.

She's reported on a range of stories over the years — including the 2016 presidential campaign, the Boston Marathon bombings and the trial of James "Whitey" Bulger.

Asma got her start in journalism in her home state of Indiana, but was introduced to radio through an internship at BBC Newshour in London during grad school.

The deadly mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., last week came less than a day after dozens of Democrats who campaigned on promises to strengthen gun laws were elected to the House of Representatives. Across the country, candidates from Virginia, Georgia, Texas and Washington state bluntly called for more gun safety, seemingly emboldened to take on the National Rifle Association.

As results roll in on election night, pundits and political junkies will carefully be watching the exit polls for a glimpse into who voted for which candidate and why.

But exit polls are complicated, and sometimes misleading, as they were in 2016.

For one thing, be careful about reading too much into exit polls early in the night. As more data comes in, they can be more useful later in the evening to explain what's happening — more so than predicting results before the polls have closed.

It's a political puzzle that frustrates Democrats — in two states where Donald Trump is deeply unpopular, two incumbent GOP governors have remained consistently popular.

Maryland and Massachusetts are places where Trump has his lowest approval ratings in the country — 35 percent. Yet, the Republican governors in those states have approval ratings near 70 percent.

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Democrats Andrew Gillum and Tony Evers are both carrying the progressive banner in tight races for governor, but their differing ideologies and strategies show how the label has broadened appeal and less definition in 2018.

Gillum is the charismatic 39-year-old mayor of Tallahassee barnstorming the state of Florida in his bid to become the state's first black governor. His progressive agenda, embraced by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, combined with identity politics is intended to bring together a coalition.

Christine Garcia, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mom, doesn't consider herself a particularly political person. But like a lot of women, she has strong opinions about President Trump.

"Maybe on the business side ... the money is better as far as I understand," Garcia said. "But a lot of the other things are very worrisome," she added with a laugh, as she pushed her daughter on a swing in a park in Birmingham, Mich., an affluent suburb of Detroit.

Garcia considers herself a fiscal conservative but a social liberal.

Jagada Chambers was sent to prison for attempted second-degree murder in 2000. The story, as he tells it, was that he was on spring break with friends during college and got into a physical altercation with an acquaintance.

He was released four years later, in August 2004, and his understanding was that his voting rights were gone forever.

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Just in the past few months, elections in the U.S. have been decided by hundreds of votes.

The 2016 presidential election tilted to Donald Trump with fewer than 80,000 votes across three states, with a dramatic impact on the country. Yet, only about 6 in 10 eligible voters cast ballots in 2016.

In a surprise defeat that reflects a changing Democratic Party, Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley has defeated 10-term Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano in Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District.

Pressley is poised to become the first African-American woman to represent Massachusetts in the state's congressional history.

"It's not enough for Democrats to be back in power," she said at her election night celebration. "It matters who those Democrats are."

Quentin James was tired of the Democratic Party taking black votes for granted without investing in building black political power. So, in 2016, he started the Collective PAC to fund progressive black politicians. The following year, James, a veteran of the Obama campaign, established a boot camp — the Black Campaign School — to train those candidates.

The night Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a Democratic congressional primary in New York, Ayanna Pressley, a Boston city council member who is also challenging a 10-term Democratic House incumbent, tweeted a congratulatory photo.

And Ocasio-Cortez responded with an equally effusive tweet of her own.

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Updated at 2:50 a.m. ET on Wednesday

The Trump administration has published a preliminary list of additional Chinese products that could be targeted with tariffs in the escalating trade war between the world's two biggest economies. The list covers some $200 billion in Chinese exports that could be hit by a 10 percent tariff. It's an extensive list of over 6,000 goods that include seafood, propane and toilet paper, among many other things.

Mike Davis didn't think Donald Trump could get elected.

Davis is the kind of Republican who backed Ohio governor John Kasich in the 2016 primaries, the kind of Republican who subscribes to the Wall Street Journal. Davis, 64, is the former mayor of Dunwoody, Ga., a small city in the state's 6th Congressional District, one of the most highly-educated districts in the country.

Robert Lee, Chelsea Magee and Colt Chambers are political activists who all sound pretty typical for their generation when it comes to issues like immigration and same-sex marriage.

Dan Moore, a 58-year-old steel mill worker, gives the president an A+ on everything from tax cuts to foreign policy, but he is not so sure about tariffs.

"We need tariffs, but when it starts to impact the company where you work ... you're thinking, well wait a minute, time out!" he said.

Moore is worried the tariffs might cost him his job. The mill where he works, NLMK Pennsylvania, in the town of Farrell, not far from the border with Ohio, employs 750 workers and is a subsidiary of Novolipetsk Steel, or NLMK, Russia's top steelmaker.

The two candidates running for governor in the Georgia Democratic primary on May 22 have plenty of similarities: they're both women named Stacey; they're both former legislators in the Georgia House of Representatives; they're both lawyers; and they're both calling for similar progressive policies, such as expanding Medicaid.

But Stacey Abrams is black. And Stacey Evans is white. The color of their skin is the most obvious, if not superficial, difference between the two women.

And it's led to a racialized campaign full of competing strategies on how you win.

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At Columbia Drive United Methodist church in Decatur, Ga., the congregation bowed their heads under a brightly lit cross and prayed for their fellow worshiper — Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader in the Georgia legislature now running for governor.

Richard Ojeda joined the Army because he says it seemed like the most reasonable choice he had growing up; his alternative options, he says, were to "dig coal" or "sell dope."

So he chose the Army, where he spent more than two decades. But when he came home to Logan County, W.Va., he was stunned.

"I come home from spending 24 years in the United States Army and I realize I got kids in my backyard that have it worse than the kids I saw in Iraq and Afghanistan," he shouts into the microphone during an interview.


Emily Nakano began doing lockdown drills when she was in second grade.

"An alarm plays over the PA system, and we lock the door, turn off the lights and hide in a corner away from the window," she explained.

The high school senior from Illinois said she's grown up with a fear of school shootings in the back of her mind, even though she's not scared of guns. In fact, she's been around guns her entire life.

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In many parts of the country, President Trump and his unpopularity is a liability for Republicans in 2018, but not in West Virginia.

In the 2016 election, West Virginia supported the president more than any other state. Trump carried the state with 69 percent of the vote.

Despite a wave of controversies, President Trump's popularity seems to be rising ever so slightly, according to a couple of recent polls. The bump may be linked to the fact that more Americans seem to be crediting Trump for the nation's healthy economy.

When Koya Graham turned 18, the first thing she did was register to vote.

And, year after year, the Cleveland native faithfully voted for Democrats — that is, until the 2016 presidential election.

"I'm not interested anymore," Graham told NPR in the Spring of 2016. "I don't see any immediate, significant changes happening."

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Updated at 2:56 p.m. ET

President Trump is holding a campaign rally outside of Pittsburgh on Saturday night to boost Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone, who has been struggling to lock up a special election in a district Trump won by nearly 20 points in the 2016 election.

When the phone rings at the Republican Party headquarters in Mahoning County, Ohio, a 77-year-old retired hairdresser and former lifelong Democrat answers.

Connie Kessler is a recent GOP convert with a religious-like zeal to help her hometown elect more local Republicans. Sometimes she answers calls from voters; other times she updates the database — she does the kind of odd jobs she says she used to do for local Democrats.

If Donald Trump hadn't run for president, Kessler says she'd probably still be a Democrat.

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