After Tuesday, a day of reckoning
Democrats take big steps, but GOP is still standing
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 McAuliffe, 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 finish line and helped him “run stronger than expected” in what became a very close race.
Read inside for five key takeaways from Election Day 2019.
Democrats’ Virginia sweep is big
For the first 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 offices – 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 flipping 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 office 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 efforts 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 offices for the first 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.
Democrat Andy Beshear claimed victory in the race for Kentucky governor, but Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has not conceded.
Republican Delbert Hosemann casts his ballot Tuesday in Jackson, Miss., on his way to being elected the state’s next lieutenant governor.