November 7, 2019

Election Results

State and local elections were held on Tuesday. In Virginia, Democrats took control of the legislature. In Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear leads incumbent Republican Matt Bevin by 5,000 votes; Bevin has yet to concede. Ballotpedia

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From the Left

The left is encouraged by the results, arguing that they bode well for Democrats in 2020.

“In 2017, Democrats were severely disadvantaged by a Republican-drawn racial gerrymander that trapped a huge number of black voters in a handful of noncompetitive districts for nearly a decade. By 2019, that gerrymander was dead, killed off by the courts… Tuesday’s blowout demonstrates that there’s no mysterious or insurmountable hurdle that organically prevents Democrats from translating a landslide (in overall votes) into a majority in the General Assembly. The problem was not that Democratic voters tend to cluster in urban regions, as some Republicans have long claimed. The problem was illicit redistricting. Now the chief question facing Virginia Democrats is whether they will engage in tit-for-tat gerrymandering after the 2020 census, capitalizing upon their power to entrench Republicans in the minority.”
Mark Joseph Stern, Slate

The co-executive director of New Virginia Majority writes, “We talk to people, all year, about issues that are important to them: affordable health care, access to a good education, reforming the criminal justice system, protecting voting rights and making sure our communities have clean air, water and public lands. That is what voters responded to this fall… Democrats and national progressive organizations have the resources to take their case to the people and win, but they have to start early and organize relentlessly. When they lose, they have to stay in place and keep fighting for every political inch they can get. No place is unwinnable forever.”
Tram Nguyen, New York Times

“Some of the forces at work were demographic: an influx of immigrants, a tech boom that brought a surge of highly educated and affluent residents to the northern suburbs. But the wounds the Republicans have suffered have also been self-inflicted, as their party in Virginia was taken over by hard-line forces on the right… After the state was shaken by a mass shooting in Virginia Beach that left a dozen people dead, these were the Republicans who abruptly shut down a special legislative session on gun control after only 90 minutes without considering a single bill… they were not even willing to contemplate expanding background checks or ‘red flag’ laws to take weapons away from people deemed to be dangerous.”
Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

In Virginia, voters demonstrated that support for gun control is now an asset, not a liability, in American politics. More broadly: Railing against impeachment and attacking Democrats as ‘socialists’ won’t get the job done for Republicans when the GOP finds itself on the wrong end of questions such as health care and education… Trump’s failure to rally Republicans with his anti-impeachment message in Kentucky — a state the president carried by 30 points and that is home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), up for reelection next year — should give Republicans pause about a Trump-centric approach to their own political futures… Voters want elections to be about them, not the narcissist in the White House.”
E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post

“Matt Bevin made it his top priority as governor to shred the ACA… He shifted 31,000 people off Medicaid and S-Chip, the state children’s health-insurance plan. He added work requirements for Medicaid, and other practical barriers to coverage. Bevin’s personal behavior may have been extreme, but his policy priorities as governor were squarely in the GOP mainstream. Squeezing the ACA has been Trump policy, too. Nationwide, Medicaid and S-Chip enrollment has declined by 1.7 million over the past two years, a decline too big to be explained solely by improvements in the job market…Trump is a historically unpopular president, delivering a historically unpopular agenda. If that message failed in Kentucky, where will it succeed?”
David Frum, The Atlantic

Some caution that “To interpret [Mr. Beshear’s win] as a sign of Mr. Trump’s and Mr. McConnell’s waning power in a Republican stronghold is shortsighted. One glance at the other statewide races tells the tale: As Mr. Trump himself tweeted Wednesday morning, all were won handily by Republicans. Mr. McConnell’s fabled political organization appears to remain intact… those breaking out the bourbon in the belief that Trump Fever is abating in Kentucky should put away their glasses.”
Jason Kyle Howard, New York Times

The real winners [were] Medicaid expansion and education… Republicans in Arizona, Oklahoma and elsewhere have seen that tangling with teachers usually doesn’t work out well; they’ve also learned that as much as they may dislike the Affordable Care Act, it’s a political nightmare to mess with. Every time an election like this happens, it makes politicians more likely to heed those lessons.”
Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg

Finally, “There's been much discussion of the Republican Party's high-profile losses on Tuesday in Kentucky and Virginia, but historic GOP losses in Pennsylvania might be more concerning for the party in 2020… Pennsylvania is a key swing state that went for President Donald Trump in 2016 and will be a central battleground state in 2020. Trump won the state by less than 1 percentage point — or about 44,000 votes of the more than 6 million cast — handing him Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes.”
Eliza Relman, Business Insider

From the Right

The right argues that Bevin’s loss was an outlier, but nevertheless is concerned about what the overall results say about GOP prospects.

The right argues that Bevin’s loss was an outlier, but nevertheless is concerned about what the overall results say about GOP prospects.

Bevin is the most unpopular governor in the country, according to data from Morning Consult, which at last count found that just 32 percent of registered voters in the state approved of the job he was doing while 56 percent disapproved… He attempted to push hugely unpopular reforms to the state’s pension and entitlement programs, as well as to its education system, earning him powerful enemies in both parties. His abrasive style turned off voters and legislators alike. These weaknesses were likely the biggest factor in his loss to Beshear…

“[Moreover] until Bevin’s election in 2015, Democrats had held the governorship in Kentucky for almost the entirety of the past two decades. Though Bevin’s loss isn’t a great sign for the GOP, it also isn’t evidence that the party is collapsing in Kentucky, especially given that the other five major statewide contests last night went to Republicans. Republican attorney-general candidate Daniel Cameron, for instance, defeated his Democratic opponent by about 15 points, and in the process raked in well over 100,000 more votes than either Bevin or Beshear. Every other GOP candidate on the ballot won his or her contest by at least 15 points.”
Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review

“Given how close this race was — Bevin lost by less than 5,000 votes — it's understandable he'd want a recount, or a recanvass at the very least, to ensure that all the tallies were conducted correctly. But as soon as that process is complete, Bevin should put an end to this chaos and concede. If he doesn’t, he risks becoming the next Stacey Abrams, the failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate, who to this day pretends she was robbed of the governorship despite losing to Gov. Brian Kemp by over 50,000 votes…

“Instead of admitting her loss, Abrams vilified Kemp and encouraged the creation of a myth that voter suppression somehow caused her narrow defeat. Republicans rightly criticized Abrams for playing the victim and abandoning individual responsibility. They should now demand the same from Bevin, who is crying foul play without evidence, just like Abrams. Bevin lost the Kentucky race not because Democrats skewed the results, but because he was so deeply unpopular among his own red-leaning electorate that they chose a Democrat instead.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

“Democrats watched to their dismay as the political reaction to Barack Obama’s polarizing governance cost them the House, most governorships and state legislatures, and finally the Senate and the White House. Republicans are now experiencing the reverse effect under President Trump… This turnout trend has now continued for three Novembers, and Republicans who try to explain it away are fooling themselves. The GOP under Mr. Trump is losing more college-educated suburban voters, especially women, than it is gaining rural voters or working-class former Democrats…

“The fair judgment a year from Election Day in 2020 is that Mr. Trump is highly vulnerable in his bid for a second term. He could benefit if the economy rebounds from its recent 2% rate of growth, and perhaps Democrats bent on impeachment will overreach. But Mr. Trump may need Democrats to nominate an opponent whose agenda is far enough to the left to scare suburban voters who are tired of the daily melodrama of the Trump Presidency.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“A down-on-its-heels, opioid-ravaged, working-class, alienated electorate found its champion in Trump… Trump has made Trump voters, but not Republicans, out of working-class independents and Democrats, and he has madeDemocratic voters out of independents and Republicans. Trump has also motivated Democrats to unprecedented levels. The net effect is a massive shift of the electorate towards Democrats

“The results in 2018 and 2019 don’t mean the white working-class independents have soured on Trump. They mean that the populist love of Trump was never a love of the GOP… For Trump, it may look like an even trade: lose the wealthy whites and gain the working-class whites. But for the rest of his party, it’s one-sided: lose the wealthy whites but don’t gain anything.”
Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

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