Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, is refusing to concede to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear despite the latter’s lead of several thousand votes with all precincts reporting in Tuesday’s election; he’s cited nonspecific “irregularities,” and his refusal has apparently led the Associated Press to hold off on calling the race. But barring something unexpected, Beshear has won. His victory by no means indicates the Bluegrass State is turning actually blue (Republicans won the other statewide contests on the ballot, including the one for Beshear’s current job). But it does show that a Republican with a foul temperament and unpopular policies is not going to be able to ride pure partisanship to victory. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report made the call on Tuesday night and explained the results:
There was a general sense going into Tuesday’s off-year election in Kentucky that Bevin would probably pull out a close race. This was due to the state’s strongly Republican complexion; harsh attacks on Beshear (and his father, Steve, who was Bevin’s predecessor as governor) based on demonizing his national party; and a late intervention by Donald Trump, who won there by nearly 30 points in 2016. But it just didn’t happen, which is good news nationally for Democrats hoping that the handicaps of personality and policy that Trump shares with Bevin will sink the president next year, not in Kentucky but in battleground states.
Like Trump nationally, Bevin in Kentucky has suffered from chronically underwater job-approval ratings, aggravated by negative public reactions to his handling of education spending and public-employee pensions, and his efforts to cut Medicaid coverage. Beshear benefitted from fights against Bevin in court on education budgeting.
Beshear, who was competitive financially with the incumbent, was able to parry Team Bevin’s fatuous attacks on him as a “socialist” without repudiating the national Democratic Party. As Wasserman indicated, the Democrats cut into the usual Republican margins in both rural areas and the wealthier suburbs, and really kicked out the jams in Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington) counties, where he pulled around two-thirds of the vote.
The outcome is a setback not just for Bevin and for Trump, but also for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, like the governor, has perpetually poor job-approval ratings in Kentucky. McConnell is up for reelection next year. Both he and the president will be called upon by nervous Republicans to explain away Bevin’s defeat.
This post has been updated to note that Bevin is refusing to concede to Beshear.