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Thu Nov 7, 2019, 09:11 PM

The Anti-Republican Trend - WSJ Editorial [View all]


Democrats flipped the state House of Delegates and Senate in Virginia, which means they will control the entire state government for the first time in 25 years. They also appear to have won the governorship in Kentucky, though the Republican hasn’t conceded, and they came closer than they should have to winning the governorship in conservative Mississippi (losing by 5.6% compared to 34% in 2015). Worse than the defeats for Republicans is the voting trend, which continued the suburban losses of 2017 and 2018 that cost them control of the U.S. House. In Virginia they could in the past overcome their deficits near Washington, D.C., with gains downstate. But now their losses extend to the suburbs around Richmond and the state’s southeast.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin was crushed in the Louisville (99,000 votes) and Lexington (36,000) metro areas. Mr. Bevin lost the Lexington area by only 10,000 in 2015 and around Louisville by 38,000. But turnout statewide this year was up about 50% from 2015, as Democrats showed again that they are highly motivated in the Trump era. This turnout trend has now continued for three Novembers, and Republicans who try to explain it away are fooling themselves. The GOP under Mr. Trump is losing more college-educated suburban voters, especially women, than it is gaining rural voters or working-class former Democrats.

Tuesday’s vote wasn’t a straight referendum on Mr. Trump, who wasn’t on the ballot, but in Kentucky it was a referendum on the Trump governing style. Mr. Bevin shot from the lip and campaigned on cultural issues like immigration, abortion and political correctness. The state’s 4.4% unemployment rate wasn’t enough to overcome his personal unpopularity. Democrat Andrew Beshear, the son of a former Governor, ran a centrist campaign that avoided talking about Mr. Trump and mobilized teachers unions with promises of pay raises. Mr. Trump campaigned for Mr. Bevin on election eve and rallied some GOP voters, but these days Mr. Trump is a double-edged turnout sword.


These results forecast nothing definitive about 2020, though the anti-GOP trend of three years should worry the White House. Mr. Trump won in 2016 on an inside straight in the Electoral College, and he has never had a job approval rating above 50% despite a good economy. His divisive rhetoric on immigration and so much more may thrill his base but it alienates others. His approval rating with white college-educated women in particular is dreadful—34% in the latest WSJ-NBC poll.

The fair judgment a year from Election Day in 2020 is that Mr. Trump is highly vulnerable in his bid for a second term. Senate Republicans know this, and they know their majority is also at risk. They can’t win merely by turning out the Trump base. The GOP needs a strategy and agenda to regain support in the suburbs or they will lose the House, the White House and the Senate in 2020.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-anti-republican-trend-11573065037 (paid subscription)

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