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Democrat win in Kentucky spells trouble for Trump and Republicans

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  • On Tuesday night, Democrat Andy Beshear claimed a stunning victory in the gubernatorial race in the deep-red state of Kentucky, beating incumbent Matt Bevin by 0.4% of the vote. 
  • Bevin’s loss will concern Trump, who personally rallied for the unpopular candidate in Lexington on Monday night. 
  • The election saw Republicans lose support in the suburbs, continuing a trend from the 2018 mid-terms.
  • The string of defeats raises a question. What if Trump isn’t very good at winning elections?
  • With 2020 looming, and dozens of down-ballow Republicans needing the coattails of a popular president to win, the notion that Trump might hurt more than he helps is the stress headache the GOP doesn’t need.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Democrat Andy Beshear’s shock gubernatorial win in the deep-red state of Kentucky has Republican leaders worried. 

Final voting tallies gave Beshear a 0.4% win over incumbent Matt Bevin, whose popularity has slumped after series of confrontations with teachers and a controversial pledge to slash Medicare. 

Bevin’s confrontational and unapologetic political persona mirrored President Donald Trump’s. 

The president — who won the state in 2016 by 30 points— threw his personal support behind Bevin, rallying for him in Lexington Monday night, in a last-minute bid to shore up a campaign which ought to have been a GOP shoo-in. 

Andy Beshear

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear walks with his daughter Lila to speak to supporters at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky.
AP Photo/Bryan Woolston


The president even billed the contest as a referendum on his own popularity, remarking “If you lose, they’re going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world.”

“You can’t let that happen to me!”

“You can’t let that happen to me!” he said.

But it did.

The result has deepened the fears of GOP donors and leaders that the House impeachment inquiry, and the president’s enraged response to it, is making it difficult for party candidates to get their message across, reported The Washington Post. 

Of particular concern will be weakening support for the GOP in the suburbs, continuing a trend that started in 2018, when Democrats flipped Republican voting suburbs across the United States — and reclaimed a House majority. 

Trump n Bevin

President Donald Trump, left, talks to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, right, during a campaign rally in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Nov. 4, 2019
AP Photo/Susan Walsh


The loss in Kentucky is not the only result Tuesday night likely to concern Republicans, with Democrats overturning GOP majorities in both houses of the state legislature in Virginia, and the GOP having to scrape by with an unexpectedly close win in the gubernatorial race in Mississippi. 

 

What if Trump isn’t very good at winning elections?

Trump himself, of course, didn’t win the 2016 presidential election. He lost that vote by 3 million to Democrat Hillary Clinton. But he won enough states to get a majority in the US Electoral College. 

The string of defeats raises a question. What if Trump isn’t very good at winning elections?

With 2020 looming, and dozens of down-ballow Republicans needing a ride on the coattails of a popular president to win their districts, the notion that Trump might hurt more than he helps is the stress headache they don’t need.

Up to now, Trump has ridden out scandal after scandal that would have sunk the careers of other politicians. And elected GOP officials have been loyal to him because they want his endorsement and they don’t want to alienate Trump voters, who are still a huge chunk of all voters.

Trump’s support among grassroots Republican voters is seemingly impregnable — a recent Gallup survey found 86% of Republicans on average have approved of his performance as president during his time in the White House. 

He cultivated this support with raucous rallies, an endless stream of Twitter invective against his critics the “fake news media,” and the unbending support of conservative media outlets, prominently Fox News. 

Trump’s base isn’t always enough

But the Kentucky result shows that this support may not be invincible. 

Of course, there is a long, long way to go before 20 Republican senators abandon Trump, the number needed by Democrats to remove the president from office via impeachment. 

Republicans will point to mitigating factors in Kentucky. Bevin was among the least popular governors in recent state history. He insulted striking teachers as aids to child abuse in a series of disputes that erupted as he sought to cut pensions. 

In a statement Tuesday night, Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tried to spin the loss as indicative of the power of Trump’s campaigning powers. 

“The President just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end,” he said.

But heading into an election year which will be a referendum on the president’s divisive and personal style of campaigning, the Kentucky loss can’t be shrugged off.

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