Democratic victories could signal trouble for Trump in 2020
Democrats have claimed victories in state elections in Kentucky and Virginia, an outcome that will ratchet up pressure on Donald Trump and the Republicans as they prepare for 2020.
In Kentucky, the home state of Republican US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Andy Beshear, a Democrat, appeared to narrowly beat Republican incumbent Matt Bevin to become the state’s next governor, even after Mr Trump held a rally in the state on Monday night. The president beat Hillary Clinton in Kentucky by 30 percentage points in 2016.
“If you win, they are going to make it like, ho hum. And if you lose, they are going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world,” Mr Trump told supporters in Kentucky on Monday. “You can’t let that happen to me!”
Democrats said the results boded badly for Mr Trump’s re-election efforts.
“If I were the president, I’d be trying to look for something, too,” Tom Perez, head of the Democratic National Committee, said at a Christian Science Monitor event on Wednesday. “He went to Kentucky with Matt Bevin and [Kentucky senator] Rand Paul at his side to campaign for Matt Bevin . . . He put his credibility on the line.”`
Republicans countered that even though Mr Bevin lost — although he has yet to concede defeat — Mr Trump had energised his base and ensured that the margin of defeat was small. Mr Beshear secured 49.2 per cent of the vote, compared with Mr Bevin’s 48.8 per cent, in a difference of just over 5,000 votes.
Mr Bevin, who has clashed with colleagues and voters over issues like healthcare and teachers’ pensions, was among the least popular governors in the US heading into Tuesday’s election, according to polling by Morning Consult. Other Republicans, including Daniel Cameron, a former aide to Mr McConnell, won their statewide races in Kentucky on Tuesday.
Mr Trump said on Twitter that based on the results, Mr McConnell would “win BIG” in his re-election bid next year. Mr McConnell is facing a challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, a US Marine who raised over $10m in the first three months of her campaign — topping the hauls of many of Democratic presidential candidates over the same time period.
In Virginia, Democrats took control of the state legislature for the first time in two decades, buoyed by aggressive campaigning from national politicians and organisations.
Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, spent $2.5m on advertisements and direct contributions to candidates in the state after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach earlier this year. Emily’s List, a group that works to elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates, also spent millions in the state.
With Democrats now controlling the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, Virginia is expected to pass new gun safety legislation, as well as ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all sexes, in the coming months.
Joe Biden, the former US vice-president who is among the front runners in the Democratic primary race, campaigned in northern Virginia at the weekend alongside former governor Terry McAuliffe. Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, also campaigned in the state in recent weeks.
Mr Biden said after the polls closed on Tuesday that Virginia voters had “sent a clear, powerful message that will resonate across this nation and shake the walls of the White House”.
In both Virginia and Kentucky, growing levels of support from college-educated suburban and urban voters appeared to drive Democratic victories. In Fairfax County, Virginia, an affluent area neighbouring Washington that was once considered a Republican stronghold, Democrats won state and local races. Similar results were recorded in local elections in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Mr Perez said the results in Virginia and other places where Democrats had made gains showed that Mr Trump was not producing the kinds of results that he had promised.
“The Financial Times had a poll a few days ago that said, you know, two-thirds of the American people are not better off, feel like they’re not better off under Donald Trump,” he said, citing an FT-Peterson poll published earlier this week.