Tuesday night’s 2019 elections left Democrats elated and hopeful — and Republicans realizing they have a lot of work to do in 2020.
It seemingly answered (for now) whether Democrats pressing for Donald Trump’s impeachment are hurting their party (they aren’t), whether Trump is such a Teflon politico that him saying win this for the
gypper gipper would work (it didn’t), and whether if a politician runs as as Trumpy or Trumpier than Trump it would help at the ballot box (it apparently won’t).
The shift of metro areas away from the Republican Party under President Donald Trump rumbled on in yesterday’s elections, threatening the fundamental calculation of his 2020 reelection plan.
Amid all the various local factors that shaped GOP losses—from Kentucky to Virginia, from suburban Philadelphia to Wichita, Kansas—the clearest pattern was a continuing erosion of the party’s position in the largest metropolitan areas. Across the highest-profile races, Democrats benefited from two trends favoring them in metro areas: high turnout in urban cores that have long been the party’s strongholds, and improved performance in white-collar suburban areas that previously leaned Republican.
“When Trump was elected, there was an initial rejection of him in the suburbs,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Virginia-based Democratic strategist. “We are now seeing a full-on realignment.”
In that way, the GOP’s losses again raised the stakes for Republicans heading into 2020. In both message and agenda, Trump has reoriented the Republican Party toward the priorities and grievances of non-college-educated, evangelical, and nonurban white voters. His campaign has already signaled that it will focus its 2020 efforts primarily on turning out more working-class and rural white voters who did not participate in 2016.
But yesterday’s results again suggested that the costs of that intensely polarizing strategy may exceed the benefits. Republicans again suffered resounding repudiations in urban centers and inner suburbs, which contain many of the nonwhite, young-adult, and white-collar white voters who polls show are most resistant to Trump. If the metropolitan movement away from the Trump-era GOP “is permanent, there’s not much of a path for Republican victories nationally,” former Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee about two decades ago, told me.
Some in both parties see the results as more confirmation of the pattern from the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives: Trump’s effort to mobilize his nonurban base around white identity politics is having the offsetting effect of turbocharging Democratic turnout in metropolitan areas, which are growing faster than Trump’s rural strongholds.
“The Trump campaign has focused on a singular strategy of looking for more voters who look like the type of voters who already like him, rather than trying to persuade anyone else,” says Josh Schwerin, senior adviser at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC that spent heavily in the Virginia races. “But the issues they are using to motivate those potential voters create a backlash for voters in metro areas who don’t like Trump.”
The GOP lost the governor’s race in Kentucky in a vote one day after a Trump rally in which Trump basically told voters to win it for him so he wouldn’t look bad. But in order to cling to power it sounds as if the GOP in Kentucky may try to find a way to get its GOP dominated legislature to oust the apparent Democratic Party winner.
Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is formally asking for a recanvass of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, in which vote totals show Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear ahead by just over 5,000 votes. A recanvass is a double-checking of the vote totals and rarely produces different results.
In a statement, Bevin’s campaign manager said: “The people of Kentucky deserve a fair and honest election. With reports of irregularities, we are exercising the right to ensure that every lawful vote was counted.”
Bevin and his campaign have provided no details about election irregularities that they say took place during the race.d
As of Wednesday, the number of election law complaints reported to the attorney general’s office was on par with those made in 2015.
University of Kentucky election law professor Joshua Douglas said that other than a recanvass, Bevin’s option is contesting the election, which would be settled by the Republican-led legislature. Kentucky law has no provision for a recount in gubernatorial races. But Douglas was skeptical a recanvass would make much difference for Bevin.
“Well, I think the 5,000-vote differential out of 1.4 million cast — yeah, although it sounds small — is actually a pretty large amount when it comes to the likelihood of the vote totals changing in any of these post-election disputes,” Douglas said.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers threw another wrench into the state’s razor-thin gubernatorial outcome late Tuesday night, saying that the legislature could decide the race.
Stivers’ comments came shortly after Gov. Matt Bevin refused to concede to Attorney General Andy Beshear, who led by roughly 5,100 votes when all the precincts were counted.
“There’s less than one-half of 1%, as I understand, separating the governor and the attorney general,” Stivers said. “We will follow the letter of the law and what various processes determine.”
Stivers, R-Manchester, said based on his staff’s research, the decision could come before the Republican-controlled state legislature.
Under state law, Bevin has 30 days to formally contest the outcome once it is certified by the State Board of Elections. Candidates typically ask for a re-canvass of voting machines and a recount first.
The last contested governor’s race was the 1899 election of Democrat William Goebel.
Stivers said he thought Bevin’s speech declining to concede to Beshear was “appropriate.” He said believes most of the votes that went to Libertarian John Hicks, who received about 2% of the total vote, would have gone to Bevin and made him the clear winner.
A candidate can file a formal election contest with the state legislature, but it must be filed within 30 days of the last action by the state board of elections. The state board is scheduled to certify the results of the race for governor on Nov. 25 this year.
The Bulwark notes Trump loyalists and Trump’s messaging wing (conservative talk radio) are now saying GOPers need to embrace Trump more tightly than ever:
The GOP has got a fever . . . and the only prescription is more Donald.
That’s the takeaway from the Trumpian sycophants and MAGA punditocracy following yesterday’s electoral shellacking from Bucks County to the Bluegrass State to Virginia Beach.
Much of the focus was on Kentucky, where Donald Trump led a pagan tent revival slash Roman trial slash Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Camacho-esque political rally on Monday night that was intended to put the state’s Trumpian governor Matt Bevin over the top. Bevin had explicitly made his reelection campaign a referendum on impeachment and Trump himself told the crowd that a loss in the state “sends a very bad message.”
That was before the vote. After the vote, Trump’s cheerleaders insisted that there was no message being sent, of any kind.
Those on the payroll were the first to jump. Ronna “don’t call me Romney” McDaniel tweeted that Bevin was down 17 points (false) before Trump came to the state to “lift the entire ticket.” Trump’s campaign manager argued that Bevin lost because the winner “acts like a Republican.” Maybe the Democrat Andy Beshear acts like a Republican from the 1990s, but Bevin is a true modern-day Republican: He literally walks around in a jacket with Trump’s face plastered all over it.
Hard to figure what numbers from last night make Trump World think that Minnesota has come into play. But there were elections in one of the six states Hewitt mentioned. And they went terribly for the GOP. Republicans were defeated across Pennsylvania in local elections, from Scranton to Bucks County—which had been the “last GOP stronghold” in suburban Philly. In Virginia—a state that would be in play if the incumbent Republican president was successful and popular—Republicans were wiped out, with Democrats holding the governorship and both houses for the first time in a quarter century winning not just with the deep state bureaucrats in Northern Virginia but also in suburban Richmond and Virginia Beach.
And then there’s Kentucky. Yes, it is true that Republicans swept the down ballot races in the Bluegrass state. Yes, there were hot takes about “what it all means” for Mitch Mcconnell’s Senate race that were overwrought. Yes, Matt Bevin is a negative charisma version of Coach Cal, who had a suitcase full of ill-will from a life-time of being a jerk.
But even still. Donald Trump won the state by 30 forking points. THIRTY. I’m sure a lot of people in Kentucky were personally victimized by Matt Bevin—but a third of the electorate?
Hewitt thinks the lesson of last night was that for Republicans to win, they need to hug Trump. Bevin literally wrapped Donald Trump around his shoulders and let his saggy orange skin envelope the entire campaign. (I know I need to get over the jacket, but my God LOOK AT IT). Chuck Todd, not a noted Trump ally, said that a Bevin victory would happen on the back of outrage about impeachment. And Bevin got the message. The morning of the election he was ranting to MSNBC’s Vaughn Hillyard about impeachment charade.
It didn’t work.
In the three election years since Donald Trump was last on the ballot the GOP has gotten whupped. The trends across all the elections are clear: The party as currently constituted is deeply unpopular not just in American cities, but now in the suburbs and, increasingly, in the exurbs, too.
Read this article in its entirety.
You can’t help but read news about the election results, speculation that a GOP dominated Kentucky legislature could vote to overturn the results, and continued signs that conservative talk radio and Fox News opinion show hosts are policing wings to keep elected GOPers in line and wonder if the current Republican Party is turning off a new generation of voters who will increasingly vote in coming years. Or are they counting on voters becoming more conservative as they age?
The consensus among many political writers is that the GOP faces increasing political peril in its quickly eroding position in the nation’s suburbs. The Los Angeles Times:
In many cases, they reflected Republican struggles in suburban areas that once were crucial to GOP advances.
“There are some canaries in the coal mine right now, and we in the party would do ourselves a favor by paying attention,” said Jim Merrill, a Republican consultant based in New Hampshire, where Democrats also made significant gains in local races. Some polls show Trump’s approval ratings have tanked in a state he lost by 0.4 percentage points in 2016.
Republicans sought to cast the apparent loss of the governor’s seat in Kentucky — Republican Matt Bevin trailed Democrat Andy Beshear on Wednesday by 5,100 votes with 100% of returns tallied — as an outlier, the result of an deeply unpopular incumbent who ran a bad race. Republicans won other statewide races there, they note.
But the race also showed the limits of the GOP’s increasing dependence on the president. On Monday, Trump held a raucous election eve rally with Bevin in Lexington, Ky., and sought to nationalize the governor’s race as a referendum on the impeachment battle roiling Washington, and on the president himself.
Trump told cheering supporters at the rally that a Bevin loss would send “a really bad message” and pleaded, “You can’t let that happen to me.” He looked to save face Wednesday, tweeting that the rally had given Bevin “at least 15 points,” a claim at odds with state polls.
For the president’s own reelection race — and for Republicans looking further ahead — the results in Virginia and Pennsylvania were more alarming. Trump lost Virginia in 2016 but pulled an upset in Pennsylvania, long a Democratic bastion.
Despite a scandal in Richmond this year that almost forced out the Democratic governor, Virginia Democrats on Tuesday won control of both chambers of the state Legislature, marking the first time since 1993 that the party will control the governorship and the legislative branch.
And in Philadelphia’s vast suburban counties, Democrats took control of local government in several longtime Republican strongholds, including Delaware County, which Democrats haven’t controlled since the Civil War, and Chester County, which has never had a Democrat-led council in its history.
Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist in Washington who worked for a decade as chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), sees those results as “huge warnings” for Republicans.
“What we’ve seen in the Trump era is suburban Republicans are a less reliable Republican vote than rural Democrats, and you can get away with it in states like Kentucky,” he said. “But it’s really hard to get away with it in states like Pennsylvania, where you have huge population numbers that just can’t be overcome in rural areas.”
Then there’s this article by Timothy P. Carney in the conservative Washington Examiner that warns Trump-ere party relaignment is a “death sentence for the GOP.” Here’s some of it:
Gov. Matt Bevin’s loss should send a message to embattled Republicans in Trump Country: President Trump is not going to save you if you’re drowning.
Republicans’ loss of both chambers of Virginia’s legislature should send a message to Republicans in the rest of America: Trump is going to drag you down like an anchor.
Since Trump’s shocking upset win in November 2016, the story of politics in America has been pretty simple: Democrats win, Republicans lose.
The explanation is pretty simple, too: Trump has made Trump voters, but not Republicans, out of working-class independents and Democrats, and he has made Democratic 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.
To be perfectly clear, Trump didn’t cause Bevin to lose in Kentucky on Tuesday. Bevin did that. But Trump tried and failed to save Bevin. Bevin tried to use Trump as a life raft. Bevin sank despite Trump’s popularity in his state.
…There’s a bigger story here. In general elections, Trump’s popularity among the white working class translates into one thing only: votes for Trump.
Trump’s core supporters — the type of people he brought out of the political woodwork to give him victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin — still aren’t Republicans. They’re just Trump voters. And that doesn’t mean they’ll listen to Trump’s endorsements, either. It means they’ll vote for Trump, and that’s it.
In Kentucky, the standard Republican gets about 55%. Bevin’s poor first term lost him enough points to drag him below 50%. Had he been able to tap into Trump’s well of independent and Democratic voters, he could have won. That didn’t happen, because Trump voters are just that — Trump voters.
In Ohio, some blue-collar places that had voted Obama and then Trump have swung back, voting on Tuesday for Democrats.
We saw the same thing clearly in Michigan a year ago. Trump in 2016 famously outperformed past Republicans in nearly every county in that state, swinging 12 counties from blue in 2012 to red in 2016. Come the governor’s race in 2018, half of those counties swung back to blue, and the rest gave back most of their GOP gains. Macomb County, the most populous such county, swung 16 points to Trump in 2016, and then 15 points back to Democrats in 2018.
These back-and-forth counties are white and working class. 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. In Michigan, that meant a Trump win in 2016 and Democratic wins in 2018.
While Trump didn’t bring working-class white America into the GOP, he has caused a partisan realignment elsewhere: driving upper-middle-class white America out of the GOP.
Read the rest of it in its entirety.
A sign of a bad night for Republicans: when you’re trying super hard to spin a Republican victory in deep red Mississippi as some sort of underdog story. https://t.co/aaak8iygCg
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) November 6, 2019
Youth vote up 300% this year
Justice will win https://t.co/HnfRXH3m2a
— David Hogg text VOTE to 954-954 (@davidhogg111) November 6, 2019
Over-turning the election results in the legislative while arguing that any investigation of Trump is “trying to overturn the 2016 election” would be a look https://t.co/SpOfUDY13Q
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) November 6, 2019
Look for #Bevin to try to call a special session of the #KY legislature to overturn the election. An outrageous move, but he specializes in them. In this as in other ways KY has been and will be a preview of the #2020 presidential race. Think @realDonaldTrump would ever concede?
— Howard Fineman (@howardfineman) November 6, 2019
Trump & the GOP are trying to distance @realDonaldTrump from the disastrous loss of Kentucky’s governorship last night, claiming the race wasn’t about Trump. But the Republican who lost said just yesterday that the entire race was in fact about Trump. pic.twitter.com/BbxCYCnasJ
— John Aravosis?? (@aravosis) November 6, 2019
— David Frum (@davidfrum) November 6, 2019
Talked to a pollster active in the KYGOV race. Bevin was not 17 points down. @gopchairwoman might want to revise and extend.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) November 6, 2019
For those of us in TN wondering how Dems can possibly become competitive statewide again, look to all of our neighboring states: suburbs are key. Dems need to make a big push at the local level to build a bench in Rutherford, Williamson, Wilson, Knox and Hamilton counties.
— Aaron Astor (@AstorAaron) November 6, 2019
My latest: Alarm in the GOP tonight following the Kentucky outcome… Scott Reed tells me “the Republican Party is lacking message discipline, and that needs to be addressed… it seems to be overwhelmed by the drama.” https://t.co/bFG9RHfbHH
— Robert Costa (@costareports) November 6, 2019
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.