Af­ter Tues­day, a day of reck­on­ing

Democrats take big steps, but GOP is still stand­ing

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Led­yard King USA TO­DAY

WASH­ING­TON – The Democrats swept Vir­ginia. The Repub­li­cans swept Mis­sis­sippi. And Ken­tucky was still too close to call.

Tues­day’s elec­tion might have looked like a draw, but Democrats emerged feel­ing vic­to­ri­ous as they head into the 2020 elec­tions be­cause most of Tues­day’s mar­quee matchups were be­ing played on Re­pub­li­can turf.

For­mer Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who was chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee from 2001 to 2005, called Tues­day’s re­sults a “hu­mil­i­a­tion” for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. But Repub­li­cans down­played un­fa­vor­able re­sults, par­tic­u­larly in Ken­tucky, say­ing Gov. Matt Bevin’s poor per­for­mance would have been worse had Trump not got­ten in­volved.

Trump’s cam­paign says he “just about dragged” Bevin across his elec­tion’s finish line and helped him “run stronger than ex­pected” in what be­came a very close race.

Read in­side for five key take­aways from Elec­tion Day 2019.

Democrats’ Vir­ginia sweep is big

For the first time in nearly a gen­er­a­tion, all the levers of power in the Old Do­min­ion are in the hands of Democrats.

The Democrats al­ready oc­cu­pied the top three statewide offices – gov­er­nor, lieu­tenant gov­er­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral – be­fore Tues­day’s elec­tion. Now they also run the House of Del­e­gates and the Se­nate, which they cap­tured by flip­ping key subur­ban seats Tues­day.

The vic­tory not only means the Democrats will con­trol the power in Rich­mond to push through a pro­gres­sive agenda on gun con­trol and health care, but it also gives the party the abil­ity to re­draw more fa­vor­able con­gres­sional and state leg­isla­tive dis­trict lines based on the 2020 cen­sus.

And that could help keep them in con­trol for an­other decade.

GOP blew it in Ken­tucky

There’s no real rea­son an in­cum­bent Re­pub­li­can gov­er­nor who em­braces Trump should come close to los­ing re­elec­tion in a state the pres­i­dent won by 30 per­cent­age points in 2016.

But Bevin’s acer­bic style made him per­son­ally un­pop­u­lar in the state. And Demo­crat Andy Bes­hear, whose fa­ther was a two- term gov­er­nor, ran a text­book cam­paign as a mod­er­ate avoid­ing talk of im­peach­ment or other hot- but­ton is­sues that could po­lar­ize the elec­torate.

Bevin tried to down­play a po­ten­tial loss ear­lier on Elec­tion Day by point­ing out that Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans on the vot­ing rolls. But Ken­tucky has long been a Re­pub­li­can state that’s trend­ing red­der.

It’s not over yet: Bevin has not con­ceded, and a re­can­vass could be com­ing.

Not as bad for Trump as it looks

Yes, Trump went to Ken­tucky on Mon­day night to stump for Bevin. And, yes, he told the crowd at a Lex­ing­ton rally that los­ing the gov­er­nor’s race would send “a re­ally bad mes­sage.”

But ev­ery other ma­jor GOP can­di­date seek­ing statewide office in the Bluegrass State won their race. The gov­er­nor’s man­sion in Mis­sis­sippi is go­ing to stay red ( af­ter Trump also stumped in that state re­cently). And Vir­ginia isn’t a pur­ple state, so the Democrats’ sweep there isn’t as fore­shad­ow­ing as it might be in other states.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 cam­paign man­ager, didn’t sound wor­ried that the re­sults por­tend bad news about 2020, tweet­ing that Bes­hear is a mod­er­ate, whose “dad was a mod­er­ate, who didn’t talk about im­peach­ment or Trump, and who acts like a Re­pub­li­can.”

Repub­li­cans should be un­easy about one trend: the sub­urbs turned out for the Democrats – much like they did a year ago – thanks to groups like the Demo­cratic Su­per PAC For­ward Ma­jor­ity that poured money into voter mo­bi­liza­tion efforts in Vir­ginia.

Mis­sis­sippi stayed Re­pub­li­can

For all the glee from Democrats sur­round­ing Vir­ginia and Ken­tucky, con­sider this: Mis­sis­sippi Repub­li­cans soon will hold all eight statewide offices for the first time since Re­con­struc­tion.

Re­pub­li­can Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ vic­tory over Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jim Hood, who will be giv­ing up his seat in Jan­uary, means the Mag­no­lia State will be en­tirely con­trolled by the Repub­li­cans.

With more than 90% of the vote counted, Reeves was lead­ing 52%- 47%.

“It has been a long road, but it has been a good road,” he told sup­port­ers in a vic­tory speech Tues­day.

Could Tues­day’s re­sults boost mod­er­ate Democrats in 2020?

Democrats had a lot to crow about Tues­day. But in the mar­quee gu­ber­na­to­rial races, it was the mod­er­ates who showed how to cob­ble to­gether a coali­tion in red states.

Bes­hear ap­pears to have won by steer­ing away from po­lar­iz­ing is­sues such as im­peach­ment and fo­cus­ing on lo­cal is­sues. Hood didn’t win Mis­sis­sippi but he had a re­spectable show­ing by em­pha­siz­ing his roots.

“I bait my own hook, carry my own gun and drive my own truck,” Hood boasted in an ad high­light­ing the cul­tur­ally con­ser­va­tive per­sona that used to al­low some Democrats to win Re­pub­li­can states.

It’s too early to say whether Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates tout­ing “Medi­care for All” and the Green New Deal will soften their mes­sage to broaden their ap­peal. But strong show­ings by mid­dle- of- the- road can­di­dates Tues­day may help more mod­er­ate can­di­dates make their case to vot­ers.

MATT STONE/ USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Demo­crat Andy Bes­hear claimed vic­tory in the race for Ken­tucky gov­er­nor, but Re­pub­li­can Gov. Matt Bevin has not con­ceded.

ROGELIO V. SOLIS/ AP

Re­pub­li­can Del­bert Hose­mann casts his bal­lot Tues­day in Jack­son, Miss., on his way to be­ing elected the state’s next lieu­tenant gov­er­nor.

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