Elections were held throughout the nation last night. There are dozens of analysis pieces out about who, besides those on the ballots, had their fortunes rise or fall, and most of them are similar… but there are also some differences in the takes. I thought I’d add two of mine which are slightly askew of the general analysis.
LOSER: Donald Trump. Trump was far and away the night’s biggest loser, because he failed in multiple ways. First, he showed deep vulnerability by going to Kentucky and putting his stamp on Matt Bevin. Bevin’s internal polling was showing that he was expected to win, and a Republican pollster (Trafalgar Group) had produced the most recent large poll which showed Bevin at +5, safely above the margin of error. Trump walked into Kentucky thinking that the national media was giving the Democrat a chance but believing that Bevin had the election sewn up. Trump was therefore going to be able to claim that the expected victory was all due to him, and energize his base for future elections. Instead, the opposite happened; the voters in the area around where his rally was held were energized to vote against him. Trump’s rally may have been the final nail in Bevin’s coffin, rather than the boost that many, myself included, expected.
Trump also handed his opponents a hammer during the rally, in the form of a quote reproduced throughout social media today.
Kentucky isn’t the only place Trump lost, though. He also lost in the impeachment process. Voters throughout the country spoke, and many traditionally Republican seats were shifted… from a Philadelphia suburb to a Kansas city to the Virginian legislature. While the high-profile election is the one the Trump supporters will notice, the lower-level elections are the ones that the politicians notice, because those elections are how they can extend and exert their power. The elections yesterday undermined the likelihood that Republican House and Senate members will stand with Trump far more than any action, however unethical, criminal or even treasonous, Trump may have performed.
WINNER: Elizabeth Warren. Rational people will focus on the fact that Bevin’s opponent, Andy Beshear, is a moderate Democrat; one of his selling points on the campaign was that he would be able to work with Trump on issues where they found common ground… hardly the words of a hardliner like Sanders or Warren. Without exit polls or statewide canvassing, though, there are a lot of unknowns about the Kentucky race. This allows people to fill in the reasons they wish to see, and that will galvanize the hard left. Absent evidence to the contrary, they will get one undeniable truth from the election: that a fervent Trump supporter lost his election in a state where Trump won decisively in 2016. Bevin’s unpopularity, Beshear’s moderate nature and assertions he can work across the aisle, and the strong success of all other Republicans on the ticket will not sway their views, because their views are predicated on what they want to hear.
Make no mistake: all of the Democrat political candidates won last night, because of Trump’s failure. But Warren stands out. Sanders has a fiercely loyal but limited base. Warren is the hard left candidate who has growth potential due to being a relatively unknown face to Americans who don’t follow politics; she’s the one that the savvy activists believe they might be able to sell to the country for long enough to get her into the Oval Office. Her main obstacle is neither Joe Biden nor Pete Buttigieg, but the perception that she has a strong chance to lose to Trump.
There are many people, particularly donors, who want her, but they want Trump out of office more. In mind of that, they have been hesitant to throw money toward her campaign. The national elections will open those floodgates a bit more.
It also provided a convenient shift of public attention away from her catastrophic rollout of her health care plan. If she can run from that long enough to put it behind her, she’ll have made the case that her activists have been demanding, but the general public will have forgotten that she presented it… the best of both worlds for the math-challenged candidate.
There are a lot of other less obvious winners and losers… Bill Weld and the other alt-Trump Republicans as winners, for example, and the Libertarian candidates as losers only because they aren’t already campaigning so they could take advantage of the Trump loss for fundraising efforts. Those are my picks for the top in each category who weren’t actually on a ballot last night.