No doubt political hobbyists (i.e. people who started caring about government in June 2015) are watching Governor Matt Bevin lose by less than half a percent tonight and thinking “wow, this is a sign that we might beat Mitch McConnell next year.” They might as well light their money on fire, because McConnell is likely going to win by double digits. Of course, these are the same folks who gave Beto nearly $100 million in the course of a year, so they have a lot of experience lighting their money on fire.
Governor Bevin is intensely disliked, even by Republicans – perhaps especially by Republicans – in Kentucky. Nearly half of Republican primary voters wanted to kick him out of office. If Robert Goforth, the runner-up in the primary, had won, there would be another Republican governor tonight. This election is nothing but an own-goal for Republicans in the state.
Republicans swept every single other statewide office on the ballot by very large margins, including electing the first African-American Republican attorney general. In fact, he received 100,000+ more votes than Bevin did. Bevin is just an objectively terrible candidate.
On the other hand, this is the second election in four years that Andy Beshear has won by less than 1%, despite being the son of Bevin’s predecessor and having major name recognition throughout the state. It ensures that politics in Kentucky is going to be as dysfunctional as ever.
If anything, this race should terrify Democrats heading into 2020. President Trump took literally the most hated governor in the entire country and almost got him to re-election against a relatively moderate candidate. Imagine the pull he will have in races against far-left “socialist” candidates.
This is a state where, prior to the last election cycle, Democrats had controlled the legislature for over a century. Within a couple of years, it became solidly brick red.
I am not at all confident that the state will remain this way over the long term, however, especially as its pension crisis continues to worsen and the state gets a lot of folks moving in from Chicago and Detroit. Those are usually the trends that drive conservative voters away.