Americans went to the polls on Tuesday night in a closely watched test of Donald Trump’s appeal with Republicans and Democrats strength headed into the 2020 presidential election.
Here are five key takeaways from the results.
Virginia goes blue
For the first time in nearly a quarter-century, Democrats hold all levers of power in Virginia. The Democrats flipped both the house and senate in a state seen as a bellwether of the national political mood. The victories came in spite of a series of scandals that embroiled the state’s Democratic governor and lieutenant governor. With control of the state legislature, Democrats have vowed to advance gun control legislation and healthcare reforms. A Democratic trifecta in Richmond puts the party in the driving seat before redistricting based on the 2020 census.
“This historic victory should send a chill down the spines of Donald Trump and every Republican,” Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.
Kentucky governor’s race looks like a narrow Democratic win
There is little reason an incumbent Republican governor who molded himself in the image of Trump should lose a state the president won by 30 percentage points in 2016. And yet Matt Bevin, the deeply unpopular governor of Kentucky, looks to have lost to the Democrat Andy Beshear, who has already claimed victory.
Republicans have waved off suggestions that Bevin’s likely loss reflects poorly on Trump’s support in 2020, arguing that results would have been far worse if the president hadn’t rushed to his aid with a rally in Lexington on the eve of the election. Bevin has refused to concede, with 100% of precincts reporting and Beshear leading by a few thousand votes.
If Beshear holds on to his lead, as it appears he will, he has vowed to expand Medicaid access, install new leaders on the state’s school board and restore voting rights to some felons.
But the governor’s race was the only statewide race Republicans fumbled on Tuesday. They were particularly pleased with the election of Republican Daniel Cameron, who will be the first African American in state history to serve as the Kentucky’s attorney general.
Republicans hold on in Mississippi
Republicans held off a competitive challenge to maintain control of the governor’s mansion in Mississippi, a sign of the party’s enduring strength in the deep south. Tate Reeves, the Republican lieutenant governor, defeated Jim Hood, the state’s Democratic attorney general, in the race to succeed Phil Bryant, who is term-limited.
Trump and Mike Pence campaigned for Reeves in recent days, and Parscale claimed that the president’s support “undoubtedly had an impact and helped governor-elect Tate Reeves nail down his victory”.
2020 implications for Democrats and Trump
Democrats were ecstatic following their victories in Virginia and Kentucky. But the successful candidates on Tuesday night were largely political moderates able to win over suburban voters in conservative areas. This follows the congressional midterms in 2018, when Democrats regained control of the House.
A prominent feature of the Democratic presidential primary race has been the ideological divide between centrists candidates like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg and progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. It’s unclear if Tuesday night’s results will affect the primary, but they will give a boost to candidates who are running on a more centrist platform.
But the results yielded a mixed bag. Republicans continued to bleed support among suburban voters but they managed to beat back a spirited and well-funded challenge in Mississippi while holding on to most statewide offices in Kentucky, allowing them to argue that Bevin was a uniquely flawed candidate.
But what made Bevin unpopular – his brash personality, combative approach, and embrace of controversy – are the same traits that make Trump an unpopular incumbent.
The next – and last – test of the year
All eyes will turn next to Louisiana for the final governor’s race of 2019, between John Bel Edwards, the Democratic governor, and the Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Trump will visit the state on Wednesday to help boost Rispone in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.
Edwards led his Republican opponents in last month’s election but was forced into a runoff after failing to break the 50% threshold to win outright. He is the only Democrat elected statewide in Louisiana, after winning the governorship in 2015 when he beat the scandal-plagued Republican David Vitter.
The election is on 16 November.
And one fun thing: Juli Briskman, the cyclist who was fired from her job after giving Trump the middle finger as his motorcade passed her on her bike, won a seat on the Loudoun county board of supervisors.
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