Democrats are reeling from this week’s election sweep
America off the year elections can be summed up by the story of two promising governors – one who won and one who moved. On November 7, Andy Beshear went on a trip to re-election in Kentucky, one of the reddest states in the country, despite the fact that he is a Democrat. Meanwhile in Virginia, Republican governor Glenn Youngkin, who campaigned for his party’s state candidates as if he were himself on the ballot, suffered a political setback by losing control of the lower house of the legislature. state.
Amidst the doom and gloom over the upcoming presidential election, the Democrats won on friendly turf and in enemy territory. In Kentucky Mr. Beshear improved significantly from a half-point win in 2019 to a five-point win. As a sign of his appeal outside comfortable urban territory, he managed to carry two rural counties that Donald Trump won by more than 50 points in the 2020 presidential election.
In Ohio, a state that Mr. Trump carried twice, voters chose to break with conservatives and include the right to abortion in the state constitution. According to analysis by politics, the turnout in the counties that supported Mr. Trump was high. But support for abortion exceeded support for President Joe Biden by a ten-point margin. Voters in New Jersey extended Democratic legislative majority; those in Pennsylvania added another Democrat to the state supreme court bench. Only in Mississippi, deep in the conservative heartland, did the Democrats lose a big race (as expected). Even there, challenger Brandon Presley fell two points short of forcing incumbent governor Tate Reeves into a runoff.
What is clear from the results is that the Republican platform of severe abortion restrictions remains very unpopular. Although many conservatives are reluctant to vote for Democratic candidates, they regularly vote against the conservative party if they get an up or down referendum on abortion. In the past year, this has been the case in votes in states like Kansas, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Mr. Beshear, who is already making waves as a presidential candidate in 2028, managed to turn what seemed to be pro-abortion politics in Kentucky against his opponent with attacking a legal regime that requires teenage rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term.
Surprisingly, the Democrats’ line of attack on abortion worked even when Republicans tried to moderate it. Virginia was a swing state that has gradually become liberal due to the large number of college-educated suburbanites. The state has the most lenient abortion laws in the south. To avoid terrorism charges, Mr. Youngkin united Republicans in his state around a 15-week limit with more exemptions for cases of rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. They posted reasonable candidates who worked as an obstetrician and a founder of a maternal health startup.
But the Democrats accused that the procedure was a ploy and that Republicans could not be trusted to maintain themselves if a majority was given in the state legislature. Abortion bans were possible, Democrats warned. And it seems the voters listened. Now Mr. Youngkin must deal with a Democratic majority in each chamber of the state legislature, severely limiting the policy platform he had been planning.
In contrast, Republican efforts to seize nationalistic issues collapsed. Culture-war issues such as how high school sports should treat transgender students did not sway electronic voters this year. The neutral president did not prove liability. Democrats across the country managed to distance themselves from Mr. Biden and his dismal approval ratings.
The White House is already trying to use the advantages of the Democrats to promote Mr. Biden and try to eliminate concerns about 2024. First, because Democrats are now the party of the most politically engaged and highly educated, they may benefit more from low turnout in off-year years. Second, state elections can be more surprising without presidential ballots. While Democrats in Ohio and Kentucky have plenty to celebrate, neither state is certainly in play for Mr. Biden in 2024. Mr. Beshear has a kind of ancestral claim to governing in Kentucky, thanks to his father’s successful stewardship. All other Democratic candidates for state office were defeated. Ohio Democrats wisely chose to put abortion on the ballot as a referendum knowing full well that voters would be unlikely to elect human Democratic politicians.
The results of the off-year election do not contradict the opinion polls that show Mr. Biden’s prospects in the coming year, as big as the White House might be. want that Instead they suggest that the Democrats don’t have a platform problem, but a personnel problem. Maybe they should learn the right lesson. ■
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