As I write this, Democrat Andy Bashear has won the Kentucky Governor’s race, and the AP has called it that the Democrats in Virginia have flipped the Senate over to Democratic control with the House also flipping to them if the current voting patterns hold. Already, there are several take aways from tonight’s festivities, so let’s take a brief look.
Trump Has No Coattails – In 2016, Donald Trump won the state of Kentucky by more than 30 points. Trump even made a last minute cattle call into Kentucky last night, to battlefield Louisville, to stump for incumbent Matt Bevin. It didn’t work. And here’s something else that didn’t work. Late in the campaign, Bevin tried using Trump’s impeachment woes to drum up support. It may be that in an off year, state election, voters were not particularly motivated by national election issues in picking state candidates, but no matter how you cut it, the fact that Bevin was not able to make Trump’s impending impeachment a rallying cry for the faithful does not bode well for others trying to use Trump’s woes to advance their own agendas.
Virginia, Virginia, Virginia – The results from Virginia are nothing short of stunning. Two years and two days ago, the GOP held a narrow majority in the state Senate, and a healthy margin in the state House. The miracle of 2017 brought the Democrats to within one seat in the House, and that margin only held because of a random name draw that went the GOP’s way for a seat that was a dead heat tie. There were no Senate seats up in 2017. In 2019, the Democrats finished the job with style, and they also showed that the momentum of 2017 was no fluke, Trump and his toxic policies are driving voters away, even in traditional GOP strongholds.
There is another take away from Virginia, and that should be motivational. In 2017, the Democrats out polled the GOP statewide by more than 200,000 votes, but couldn’t flip the House due to gerrymandering. In the intervening two years, the courts determined that the Virginia map was unconstitutional, and ordered the map redrawn. The resulting map was much more benevolent to the Democrats, much like the court redrawn map of Pennsylvania a year or so ago. The more states the Democrats can flip in 2020 the more gerrymandered “legacy” seats in the US House they can get rid of.
It’s the suburbs, stupid! – In 2017, it was the suburbs that made the largest difference in the Democratic tsunami in Virginia. In 2018, the continuing tsunami of the suburbs helped the Democrats to flip the House, and take Trump’s paranoia to a brand new level. And tonight, the suburbs fueled both the Democratic completion of a government takeover in Virginia, as well as the stunning upset in the Kentucky Governor’s race.
This was especially true in Kentucky. A look at the map of the 2016 election in KY alongside of the map for tonight was stunning. Large swaths of major urban Kentucky areas that went red in 2016 were solidly blue tonight. Not only did Bashear squeeze out every vote in the major metropolitan areas, he vastly over performed in the suburbs, turning several precincts that went red in 2016 into the blue column. And equally alarming for Trump and McConnell, Bevin badly under performed in several areas of coal country in the east and west from the 2016 numbers. How much of this is Bevin being a sour candidate, and how much could be softening of Trump’s support is yet to be seen.
Turnout and Trump – I have no actual numbers from Virginia to look at, but based on the results, I have to imagine that they are at least similar to the turnout numbers of 2017, which were sky high for an off year election, if not higher. But in Kentucky, which holds much more potential peril for Trump, there is empirical evidence. In 2015, the last time there was a governor’s race in Kentucky, there were just over 900,000 votes cast. In 2016, for the presidential election, there were 1.9 million votes cast, according to MSNBC. Tonight, MSNBC reported that there were more than 1.4 million votes cast. Last night, His Lowness waddled out onto a stage in Louisville to pimp for Bevin, tonight, the vote total in Louisville was through the roof, especially in the suburbs, which went solidly for Bashear, and may have provided his final margin of victory. Clearly, having Trump come to town to campaign is a double edged sword, he seems to generate as much Democratic enthusiasm to oppose him s he generates enthusiasm for Republicans.
The Exodus Will Accelerate – These off year state elections are important, more so than they appear, because they offer a snapshot in time as to the overall mood in parts of the country, as well as possible trends that may continue forward. And if that’s the case, then most Republicans must be feeling piss miserable tonight.
In 2017, the Democrats success in making such huge gains in Virginia, especially in the suburbs sent out a warning that the GOP seemed to hear. In 2018, there was a near record number of GOP House incumbents who decided to retire, mostly in traditional GOP stronghold suburban districts with their famous “soccer moms.” Their wisdom was confirmed when the Democrats flipped many of those seats on their way to steamrolling to the majority in the House.
While the results in Virginia, which has been steadily trending blue may not have been that much of a surprise, the results in Kentucky had to be a cold water douche for the GOP. To see the kind of erosion that Trump has generated in the normally reliable white women voters in the suburbs, especially in a deep red state like Kentucky has to give GOP incumbents pause. And not just House members. There are GOP Senators up for reelection in 2020 with multiple major urban areas, with their attendant suburbs. If Trump is bleeding that many white suburban women voters, with God only knows how many white suburban henpecked hubbies along for the ride, can it be enough to offset their margins in the rural areas?
Mitch McConnell Is In Deep Kim-chi – The popular GOP cop out for Kentucky is going to be that Donald Trump won Kentucky by 30+ points in 2016, and Der Gropinfuror was not on the ballot this time. That is true, but just as in 2018, when Trump basically put himself on the ballot in many local races, he put himself on the ballot in Kentucky, and it didn’t get the job done.
That being said, some things don’t change. Andy Bashear absolutely cleaned up in the major suburban areas tonight, flipping several of them from red to blue, and making victory possible. There is no reason to believe that anything is going to happen to reverse that trend, especially since Trump still has another year to piss everybody off. And while Trump’s name on the ballot in 2020 may help to stiffen up the support in the rural and coal country areas that seem to have softened up on Bevin tonight, there’s a limit to how many votes he can squeeze out of these low voter areas, and sufficient Democratic urban and suburban turnout to oppose Trump could be just enough to offset Trump’s rural advantage, sinking not only Trump, but McConnell as well.
So, there you have it. Tonight was a great night for Democrats, and exposed some serioous problems for the GOP going into 2020, especially the mass migration that Trump is costing the GOP in their traditional suburban strongholds. Now, get a good night sleep, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this in the morning.
To know the future, look to the past. before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen