Good, Bad, and Ugly: Results and Lessons From Last Night's Elections, Ahead of 2020

Posted: Nov 06, 2019 1:15 PM

Last night's elections yielded mixed results, with bright spots and clear downsides for both major political parties -- though the media is largely focusing on anti-Trump storylines.  In fairness, there are unavoidable anti-Trump storylines to pursue, especially in Virginia.  The former red state, which was very swingy during the Obama years, is now solidly blue.  The major statewide office holders at the federal and state levels are all Democrats, and now both legislative chambers have flipped from GOP to Democratic control, albeit narrowly.  The State Senate changing hands from 21-19 R to 21-19 D isn't terribly anomalous, historically speaking.  Also, on that development, Dems dodged an optics bullet, as a 20-20 tie would have forced this man to cast tiebreaking votes (not that the leadership's myriad scandals hurt the party much, with Governor Blackface doing a victory lap this morning).  But Republicans' collapse in the lower chamber is extraordinary:

The state GOP appears to be in the throes of an identity crisis; many of its activists still seem to believe that they're living in a southern red state, not adjusting to the radically changing demographic and partisan makeup of the Virginia electorate.  The old model of downstate "real Virginia" needing to overcome the increasingly populous and blue DC suburbs of Northern Virginia (which have now totally wiped out every elected Republican in the area) isn't quite accurate anymore.  Longtime Republican strongholds like the suburbs of Richmond have been voting Democratic too, with Team Blue running hard against President Trump -- and winning.

In fact, suburbia in general has become a crisis-level problem for the GOP, dating back to the 2018 midterm elections.  If Democrats dominate the cities and win the 'burbs, Republicans' electoral math gets awfully scary in many important states. Which brings us to Kentucky.  This solidly red and pro-Trump state elected a Democratic governor last night, as the incumbent Republican got pummeled in urban areas and seriously underperformed in -- wait for it -- key suburbs:

Note how every statewide Republican performed a lot stronger than the governor, hitting margins that were much closer to (and in a few cases, better than) Trump's 2016 statewide romp.  In fact, the Kentucky GOP flipped two statewide offices into their column, including the election of the first black Attorney General in state history (a dynamic, young rising star named Daniel Cameron) -- who is also the first Republican AG in 70 years.  This doesn't look like a Trump problem or a Republican problem.  It looks like a 'historically unpopular governor who barely won his own primary as an incumbent' problem:

Rather than saying that Trump cost Gov. Bevin re-election, it's probably more accurate to say that Trump couldn't save Bevin.  And progressives licking their chops about unseating Mitch McConnell next fall, with Trump on the ballot, would be wise to temper their expectations.  Then again, the president's negative effect on his party in places like suburban Virginia and suburban Pennsylvania (red flag!) is much more pronounced and not really debatable.  Down in Mississippi, Democrats nominated a very conservative and well known candidate in the gubernatorial race, but an establishment-style Republican still won fairly handily.  And the upcoming Louisiana runoff presents a real opportunity for Republicans to snatch back a southern governorship, having dropped Kentucky.  Meanwhile, Republicans and fiscal conservatives in Texas and Colorado are celebrating significant anti-tax ballot measure victories:

I'll leave you with positive developments for each major party in states traditionally dominated by the other:

Actually, Wichita had a Democratic mayor from 2007 to 2015.  So this was not quite the stunner it's being billed as here.  Oh, and this is intriguing:

The vote was 71/29 against.

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