Donald Trump has suffered a series of disastrous setbacks as the Democrats declared victory in key elections in Virginia and Kentucky, gaining control of the former’s House and Senate for the first time since 1993 and claiming a win in the latter’s tightly fought gubernatorial race for Andy Beshear over GOP incumbent Matt Bevin, backed by the president at his Lexington rally on Monday night.
“Tonight, voters in Kentucky sent a message, loud and clear, for everyone to hear,” Beshear said. “It’s a message that says our elections don’t have to be about right versus left, they are still about right versus wrong.”
Bevin has yet to officially concede at the time of writing.
In Virginia, Democratic governor Ralph Northam told a jubilant crowd in Richmond: “I’m here to officially declare today, 5 November 2019, that Virginia is officially blue.”
A year before the presidential election, the results offered warning signs for both parties. Voters in suburban swathes of Kentucky and Virginia sided with Democrats, a trend that would complicate Trump’s path to re-election if it holds. And the Democrats who made gains on Tuesday did so by largely avoiding positions such as “Medicare for All” that have animated the party’s left flank in the Democratic presidential primary.
Democratic pickups in Virginia occurred in Washington, DC, and Richmond suburbs that had already trended in the party’s direction in recent years. Other statewide GOP candidates in Kentucky won by comfortable margins. But the disappointment at the top of the ticket still offered another example in the Trump era of suburban voters’ willingness to abandon established Republican loyalties – even with the president making a personal appeal on behalf of a GOP standard-bearer.
“He’s such a pain in the ass, but that’s what you want!” Trump said of the governor during his speech on Monday, Bevin a man deeply unpopular in the state after feuding with local teachers.
“You gotta vote because if you lose, it sends a really bad message,” the president told his audience. “It just sends a bad… and they will build it up… If you lose, they’ll say ‘Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world’. You can’t let that happen to me!”
The Republicans did retain the governor’s seat in Missippissippi, where the state’s lieutenant governor Tate Reeves took the top job from term-limited Phil Bryant after winning a closely contested battle with Democratic attorney general Jim Hood. But even that contest could finish with a single-digit margin in a state Trump won by 28 points three years ago.
The tighter result for Reeves reflected the same suburban trends seen in other states. Heavily Republican counties outside Jackson, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee, still tilted to the GOP nominee, but by noticeably narrower margins than what Bryant had four years ago to win a second term.
Legislative seats were also on the ballot in New Jersey, with Democrats positioned to maintain their overwhelming majorities and quell any opportunity for Trump to suggest that the Republicans were encroaching on Democratic territory ahead of 2020.
On Twitter, the president was busy attempting to stage manage the outcome on what proved to be an awful night for his party:
Here’s Zamira Rahim’s report.