Republicans Have a Lot to Be Happy About After Tuesday’s Elections, with Some Caveats

There are a few cautionary tales for the GOP within the results so far

The Republicans have a lot to be happy about after the results of Tuesday’s election.

But there are two factors — one to do with tone, the other with targeting — the party should think about ahead of 2020.

The bright spots are the victories of Tate Reeves as governor of Mississippi and the GOP’s statewide margins in Kentucky in all races, except the gubernatorial contest.

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The mitigations are the Kentucky governor’s battle, which as of Wednesday morning the Associated Press said was too close to call, though other outlets called it for the Democrat — and the loss of both houses of the Virginia legislature for the first time in 20 years.

(As of 11:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, current Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is not conceding the race, though Democrat Andy Beshear, the state’s attorney general, is already discussing his transition into the governor’s role.)

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Reeves of Mississippi beat Democrat challenger Jim Hood handily by running a hard and smart effort.

Related: GOP Does Well in Most State Election Results

President Donald Trump went all in for Reeves — and also for Bevin.

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Kentucky saw Daniel Cameron become its first GOP attorney general in 70 years elected there. Cameron is also the first African-American to hold that position in Kentucky’s history.

But the Bevin gubernatorial race in Kentucky is the fly in the GOP ointment. Bevin appears headed for a close loss to Beshear, who happens to be the son of the Democrat governor who preceded Bevin.

During his snakebit tenure, Bevin went out of his way to make enemies and pick arbitrary fights. Ignoring the Ronald Reagan style of winning with a smile, Bevin was combative — and most of his problems were his own doing, in this writer’s opinion.

When he challenged the powerful state teachers union, for example, he made it personal — even claiming a shooting and a sexual assault occurred as a result of teachers’ protests.

That kind of tactic made him unpopular with GOP suburban voters, especially women.

In a line that is sure to become political legend, when earlier in the year Bevin was told about his serious underperformance in polls of state voters, he casually responded, “Polls, schmolls.”

Perhaps better put this morning, “losing” equals “bad at schmoozing.”

Libertarians in Kentucky have appeared to break a GOP candidacy: Their candidate John Hicks, whose right-leaning votes probably would have gone to Bevin, garnered 2 percent of the vote.

That would have been more than enough to give Bevin a win.

Because the GOP took every down ballot-statewide race in Kentucky, if Bevin loses it is not a bellwether for 2020 presidential voting totals in that state.

However, Bevin’s potential loss because of unnecessary verbal pugilism is a wakeup call for the White House.

Tone matters, particularly with suburban women and the so-called “kindergarten teacher vote.”

It is a reason many polls show that voters like the president’s policies and results — but do not hold him in high esteem personally.

The GOP will ignore this at its own peril.

The Democrat legislative win in Virginia was an obvious call for anyone to make.

Only a few counties — those that abut D.C. in northern Virginia — call the political tune for the entire state because of their population advantage.

Many states deal with the same type of political geography.

Federal workers in those Virginia counties vote Democrat in massive numbers to protect their paychecks from GOP limited government encroachment. And as long as the national capitol resides next to those counties, Virginia is likely to stay generally blue for the foreseeable future.

The next race and final 2019 state contest is in Louisiana on the 16th of this month, as incumbent conservative Democrat governor John Bel Edwards tries to hold off GOP businessman Eddie Rispone in a runoff.

Edwards has been running furiously to the Right to try to cut off Rispone from moderates and his own base.

Rispone, for his part, is trying to tie Edwards to an unpopular national Democratic Party.

The race is neck-and-neck at this point.

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David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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