Last night, elections happened across the country, but the most high profile took place in KY, MS, and VA. In the former two, the main focus was on the governor and attorney general races, while in the latter, Democrats seeking to take the General Assembly was the big story.
Here are the results and some thoughts.
Kentucky: Gov. Matt Bevin lost to the Democrat, Andy Beshear, in Kentucky by only 5,000 votes. Contrary to what you may be hearing, this was not a surprise and Bevin was supposed to get smoked. He’s deeply unpopular (approval rating at 32%) and got into a fight with the teacher’s unions that didn’t go in his favor politically. The irony in that is that it was Andy’s father (a Democrat) that screwed up the pension fund so badly, with it only reaching crisis levels under Bevin. Voters are short-sighted, though, and now they’ll get to fight with a Democrat about it.
Across the board everywhere else in Kentucky, Republicans dominated, including taking the AG race for the first time in 70 years. There were zero actual signs of a bad showing for the GOP outside of the Bevin race, which clearly points to the candidate being the problem.
While Beshear is winning, the rest of the Republican ticket far outran Bevin and seems to have kept pace with 2015 margins. #KYGOV
Governor: R+9 -> D+1
Sec. of State: D+2 -> R+4
Attorney General: D+0 -> R+15
Auditor: R+4 -> R+14
Treasurer: R+21 -> R+21
Comm. of Ag: R+20 -> R+19
— Ryan Matsumoto (@ryanmatsumoto1) November 6, 2019
Of course, we still got ridiculous takes like this.
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) November 6, 2019
These people actually get paid for their “analysis.” No, Donald Trump did not lose Kentucky for Republicans. In fact, the last poll had Bevin losing by 19 points. A poll before that had him down 9 points. That, plus the reality that Republicans did great everywhere else, makes Scarborough’s assertion wholly false.
Bevin barely won the primary
Trump took the least popular governor in America and made him a contender. Incredible
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) November 6, 2019
I’m never looking to sugarcoat matters when it comes to elections. I’m usually a cynic, including about Trump beating Biden for example, but the idea that Bevin’s performance was indicative of some grave danger for Trump is ludicrous.
Mississippi: There was a hotly contested race for governor and AG, where the governorship was supposed to be a toss-up and the AG race was supposed to lean Democrat. In the end, Republicans overperformed to some degree. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves won the governor’s race against AG Jim Hood by a sizable 7 point margin. Hood was a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat who was only down 3 points in the last polling. He was trying to do the John Bel Edwards thing and it didn’t work out.
Once again, this is a state where Trump’s late push probably moved the needle in the right direction. There were very real fears in MS that Hood would win. That didn’t happen and Republicans also took the AG race for the first time since the 1870s. Yes, you are reading that right. MS had not had a Republican AG since reconstruction.
Virginia: There were a lot of races going on in VA because the General Assembly has something like nearly 100 seats. The gist of it is that Democrats took control of both sides by narrow margins. This was expected, as VA has been bleeding blue for well over a decade. Last time, the VA Senate was decided by a coin toss in the Republican’s favor. This time they lost it outright.
Frankly, I’m tired of talking about VA as if it’s still a bell-weather. It’s not.
A lot of the disappointment in 2017/2019 hinges on VA, which has been bleeding to blue for well over a decade, including in 2016. It didn't start with Trump and won't end with him. At what point do we stop pretending they are indicative of anything?
— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) November 6, 2019
It’s a solidly blue state and it’s time conservatives who continually fret over it realize that. Even though Republicans had been losing steadily there at the national and state level long before Trump, some want to make it an “age of Trump” story. It’s really not. Northern VA is overwhelmingly Democratic now because it’s an ever-growing bastion of federal workers, current and retired. Richmond is also growing more liberal. There is likely no pathway forward for Republicans in the state outside of individualizing races as Larry Hogan did in Maryland. None of this is a unique facet of Trump being in power and Republicans delude themselves if they think this will all fix itself once he’s gone.
Conclusion: Last night was much of the status quo remaining the same. Republicans are dominating in the rural and outer suburban areas while they are getting trounced in the cities and inner suburbs. That means places like VA are a lost cause, while the mid-west remains wide open for Republicans to make gains. We simply don’t know enough to make any grand pronouncements about 2020, though. Does Trump have a unique draw like Obama did that only benefits him? It’s possible. Does he have coattails for down-ballot races? I’m not sure. Sometimes he seems to help, sometimes he doesn’t.
There’s a lot left to happen, including an almost certain acquittal in the Senate over impeachment. Then what? We’ll find out, but the landscape in 2020 is likely going to look much different than it currently does.
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