Kentucky: How Beshear (Probably) Pulled It Off

Well, well. Lots of headlines today about how Andy Beshear’s apparent win over incumbent Matt Bevin in Kentucky has unsettled Republicans a tad. Here are some numbers for you:

Trump’s Monday night rally for Bevin was held in Lexington. Beshear won Lexington/Fayette County easily, 65.5 to 33 percent. Note, though, that Lexington/Fayette was one of the two counties in Kentucky that went for Clinton in 2016, 51.2 to 41.7 percent. (The other Clinton county in 2016 was Louisville/Jefferson; the rest of the state was solid Trump.) Still, that shows an improvement for Democrats.

As of early afternoon Wednesday, Bevin is still refusing to concede and is asking for a re-canvass. With 100 percent of the precincts counted, Beshear is ahead by 5,300 votes. The Associated Press is saying the race is too close to call. Some shenanigans may still be pulled to deny Beshear the win. But let’s look at the results we do have.

A lot is being made of the suburban vote, which went for Beshear. But I notice several rural counties in eastern Kentucky went for Beshear also. Just to pick one at random — Magoffin County, population 13,333. 98.6 percent white. Median income $27,745 for men, $18,354 for women. 36.6 percent of residents are below the poverty line. Magoffin is very much in the old coal mining region of the state; whether there are any active mines remaining there I do not know.

Now, here’s the kicker — in 2016, Magoffin went for Trump by 74.7 percent. Yesterday Magoffin voted for Beshear over Bevin, 53.6 percent to 44.3 percent. This was after Bevin practically wrapped himself in Trump and made Trumpism and impeachment the primary focus of his campaign. Did I mention that last week Mike Pence and Matt Bevin did a big bus tour of eastern Kentucky to shore up support?

Republicans dominated down-ballot races in Kentucky, and today the GOP is pretending that this shows people are still with Donald Trump. But if there was ever a sign that Trump has no real coattails, even in places that look like his base, last night was it.

Democrats and Never Trumpers are already yakking that Andy Beshear’s victory shows us that “swing” voters will go for a “moderate” Democrat, wink nudge. But I’m not sure it’s that simple. I think voters, notably those eastern Kentucky rural voters, for once just voted for the guy who would help them rather than hurt them.

Back when the Affordable Care Act was put in place, the state governor was Andy Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear, also a Democrat. Beshear saw to it that Medicaid was expanded and put a state insurance exchange, called Kynect, into place that was one of the few that worked just fine out of the box. Kynect was very popular. Beshear was governor until his term limits were up in 2015.

Matt Bevin was elected to replace Steve Beshear. One of Bevin’s first acts as governor was to end Kynect to force residents deal with the clunky federal exchange. He attempted to reverse Medicaid expansion but was not entirely successful. His plan was to restrict Medicaid to people who could prove they were working, volunteering, or in school to receive Medicaid, but a judge blocked that plan. Bevin was openly in favor of completely ending Obamacare and replacing it with nothing. See How one U.S. state is leading the charge to dismantle Obamacare from May 2017. The “one state” is Kentucky.

One suspects a lot of those eastern Kentuckians who voted for Andy Beshear hoped he would be like his daddy and not take away their Medicaid. And, indeed, Beshear campaigned hard on protecting Medicaid and supporting access to health care in general.

Altough Bevin’s attempt to throw poor Kentuckians off of their health care plans was mostly unsuccessful, he did manage to ram through anti-union “right to work” laws, which probably didn’t help him in the coal region. He also pissed off the state’s public school teachers by cutting their pensions. I understand the teacher’s union worked hard for Beshear, as did the United Mine Workers and other unions.

Under Bevin, Kentucky adopted some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country. Bevin has personally signed ten anti-abortion bills. Beshear supports abortion rights. Bevin attacked Beshear hard on this issue, calling his opponent “abortion Andy.” This is from a couple of days ago:

Beshear was the first Kentucky gubernatorial candidate to earn an endorsement from the prominent abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, which is running digital ads against Bevin through Tuesday’s election. Of the Democratic candidates for governor in three Southern races this fall, which are all seen as competitive, Beshear is the only one supporting abortion rights.

Anti-abortion opponents are closely watching the Kentucky race for hints about 2020, particularly whether voters will care enough about restricting abortion to cancel out their reservations about an unpopular incumbent — be it Bevin or Trump.

The group is behind a $750,000 campaign in the state to attack Beshear and the Democratic candidate for attorney general. Bevin has released at least four ads since mid-September attacking Beshear on abortion and emphasizing his own anti-abortion credentials.

“Kentuckians overwhelmingly support pro-life protections, and Gov. Bevin has been proud to fight vigorously on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable since day 1 of his Administration,” Bevin campaign manager Davis Paine said in a statement.

I liked this bit:

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, appearing at a campaign event for Bevin last month, said the contrast between Bevin and Beshear on abortion is a “gift” that should seal the election for the Republican incumbent.

“The only way Andy Beshear can win is if people don’t know what his position is,” she said.

So much for abortion as a sure-fire wedge issue. A lot of poor Kentuckians think they have a right to their own life, thank you, and want to have access to medical care when they need it.

Another wedge issue: Gun control. Bevin is agin’ it, period. Beshear was mostly quiet on the issue except for coming out in support of “red flag” gun laws. But do see Beshear’s “issues” page from his campaign website; along with abortion rights he also favors marriage equality, medicinal marijuana, and pledges to support diversity in hiring and protection of voting rights. These are all issues that would have marked him as a flaming “leftie” once upon a time.

My larger point is that maybe we need to drop the labels. Maybe voters care less about whether some candidate calls himself a “centrist” or a “moderate” and more about whether she or he is actually going to do anything to make life more fair and livable.

More implications for 2020: It’s clear to me that if Trump can’t win in cities and suburbs he will lose the popular vote. Can he still win the Electoral College? The pundits are saying his only hope is to pick up every rural and small-town vote he can get in the “battleground” states. And my advice to Dems is to pay attention to what issues voters in those states care about and prepare to campaign hard on those issues. Don’t do what Hillary Clinton did in 2016 and run the same one-size-fits-all campaign in every state.

And see Greg Sargent, What GOP spin about last night’s losses says about Trump’s weakness. Trump and the GOP apparently believe that Trump’s base is a mighty and invincible thing that will deliver victories for them without their having to appeal to moderate voters. Yesterday’s election results, and not just in Kentucky, says they’re wrong.

7 thoughts on “Kentucky: How Beshear (Probably) Pulled It Off

  1. It also helped that KY Gov. Bovine (sic) was the 2nd least popular governor in the country (who's #1, I wonder?  Cuomo's not great, but I'm pretty sure he's not in the bottom 10.  Hell, Andrew might even be in the top half, because if you look around there's a lot of crappy governors out there).

    KY's suburbs went for the Beshear, so THAT, as you said maha, should really scare the poop out of R's!  Two of those suburbs, with about 10% of KY's population, are actually suburbs of Ohio's Cincinnati.  Ohio is a battleground state, and central to any hope the Tangerine Idi Amin has of winning the Electoral College.

    Buck's County, a suburb of Philly, went D!  YAY!!!

    But even more shockingly, get this:  PA's Delaware County went for the Democrats FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE CIVIL WAR!!!!!  THE FECKIN' CIVIL WAR – 154 YEARS AGO!!!!!!!!!!  I guess they finally had more than their fill of tRUMP and his MAGAt's BS, huh?

    How about THAT ?!?!?!?!?

    The Republicans tied themselves to tRUMP and his fortunes.  

    And now, they're in a terrible bind.  A bind of their own making.  They decided to ride the tiger that is tRUMP's base.  And now, if they split from tRUMP, the base will "primary" them. But if they stick with him, they may very well go off the electoral cliff with him.

    A classic case of 'hoist by your own TEAtards!'



  2. I hope what you are saying is true "Maybe voters care less about whether some candidate calls himself a “centrist” or a “moderate” and more about whether she or he is actually going to do anything to make life more fair and livable."  

    Quality of life issues are the failing of the Trumpanistas.  If people are starting to realize you cannot live on hate alone, this is a big breakthrough.  One more gun or a bigger gun does not make you more secure when you might catch some collateral damage while shopping at Wall Mart. Fixing the blame on (pick the group) fixes none of your problems.  People are worried and unhappy.  You can deny climate change, but those nasty tides keep getting higher, those floods bigger  and more frequent, and winds and fires more frequent.   Oh, and those insurance premiums keep going up as the claims increase.  So security is more expensive but the increasing risk is quite evident.  

    I can go on but the bottom line is Populism, Naziism, Trumpism, or whatever you call it brings upon great levels of misery to everyone eventually.  One of the greatest works of art of all time stems from human and animal suffering at the hands of Francisco Franco. Not by some measures a "true fascist" but the thousands he had killed can only be estimated.  


    Inline image
    Picasso's cubist abstraction of the human misery a bad leader can rain down.

  3. Most voters do care about labels to an extent. Moderation implies a willingness to give and take on issues and avoid extremes. Most voters get that. Centrism isn't so easy. It implies the calculation of a half-way point in a policy or group of policies to protect the status quo:

    "In politics, centrism … is a political outlook or specific position that involves acceptance or support of a balance of a degree of social equality and a degree of social hierarchy, while opposing political changes which would result in a significant shift of society strongly to either the left or the right." ( )

    Bill Clinton was elected to counter the fast rightward swing of the Reagan/Bush years. He didn't recognize that though, and jumped aboard draconian law enforcement (e.g. "three strikes" legislation), shrinking government, and neoliberal economics (e.g. the Financial Services Modernization Act and a NAFTA minus significant protections for American workers). To put it another way, he favored the rightward shifted "center" as if it were the legitimate center and muddied the definition of moderation to favor Republicans.

    Hillary would likely have won had she not been so closely tied to Bill's policies, which the Democratic base was not thrilled with. However, it's not a sure thing, because she also ran a terrible campaign. She could never fake sincerity or being likable. Worse, she didn't show up in Wisconsin, a key battleground state. That's the political equivalent of not being able to find your own ass with both hands.

    Republicans have given themselves their own set of problems involving both a virtual lack of centrism and the appearance of moderation. They had loads of fun throwing rhetorical red meat to far right Yahoos; anti-abortion absolutists, gun nuts, theocrats, racists, misogynists, Fox News Bots, and so on. However, the Yahoos soon noticed the big deliverables were actually war, debt, bailouts for Wall St. and a moderate position on immigration. Thus Trumpism.

    It would probably be best for Democrats to always avoid labeling themselves in any way except, when necessary, moderate. Most voters don't understand the labels, and Republicans are more than happy to provide definitions.


    • All designations are arbitrary, including "moderate." A position that is "moderate" in one generation may be freaking extreme holy cow do people still think that shit crazy 20 years later.  "Moderate" also suggests not challenging the status quo, which is politically deadly during times in which voters want the status quo challenged. Which would be now. 

      • I didn't write that all Democrats should call themselves moderate. They should only do it in places where it sounds good to voters. However, I agree meanings change. That was part of my point. Clinton changed the meaning of moderate for the worse.

        I've liked many of Bernie Sanders' ideas for a long time. However, it makes me itch when he goes out of his way to call himself a Democratic Socialist. As I commented a few days ago, democratic socialism was an element of Ike's policies. It's been an element of American governance since the beginning. But gratuitously emphasizing the label just gives Republicans a chance to confuse democratic socialism with Soviet central planning to scare voters.

        Mayor Pete's talk about "working together" to solve problems reeks of centrism, though he probably means it to sound moderate. It's a reminder of how Clinton's policies worked out and how the R's attacked Obama no matter how hard he tried to meet them part way.

        I don't agree designations are arbitrary. They have meanings in the context of current American politics. The status quo can be challenged without the gratuitous use of labels. If Dems want to use labels they should use them to characterize Republicans.

  4. Great article in the WaPo about how teachers mobilized against Bevin.

    “Your courage to stand up and fight against all of the bullying and name-calling helped galvanize our entire state,” said Beshear, who chose a teacher as his running mate. “To our educators, this is your victory.”

    As attorney general, Beshear sued Bevin over his attempt to overhaul the teacher pension plan and prevailed. And when Bevin sought educators’ records to investigate them for missing school to attend walkouts, Beshear sued to block the subpoena.

    Educators in Kentucky — Republicans and Democrats — harnessed the momentum of those walkouts to try to propel Beshear to the governor’s office, with teacher volunteers proving key to the campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort, said David Turner, spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association.

  5. I also believe people are getting tired of the nastiness on the right; their brand has become a kind of smug ugly, over the top, nasty, condescending arrogance.  You see it in Trump of course, but all of his supporters, from Kellyanne Conway to Lindsey Graham, Mulvaney, Jim Jordan.  Don Jr and his “fiancé” were on “The View” earlier and, trying to be cute were downright ugly and disrespectful.  Bevin was like that, part of why he’s hated in KY.  And their abject hatred of democrats has become a sickness in them.  This behavior may play well with the “he could shoot someone on Fifth Ave…” base but its not winning them any converts and is actually a turn off.  The bold face lies don’t help either.

    This is partly why Trump is unpopular.  He is a very unlikeable person, is a nasty human being, and his policies either do nothing or actual harm to most voters.  


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