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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Republicans Score Key Wins in 2015 Races

Republicans won a couple of significant electoral victories yesterday, including the governorship of Kentucky and holding on to their edge in the Virginia state senate. The Republican businessman, Matt Bevin beat Democratic Attorney-General Jack Conway in Kentucky by an impressive 53 to 44 percent (county results map here.).
Bevin almost certainly benefitted from KY’s red state demographics, along with coal industry support, ‘outsider’ (not a career politician) status and a late onslaught of attack ads linking Conway to President Obama’s energy policies. There is also speculation that Bevin may have been boosted by having an African-American running-mate Jenean Hampton. The vote tally compared with October polls suggests either a weak turnout effort on Conway’s behalf, a strong ground game in support of Bevin, or some combination of both.
Yesterday’s elections weren’t all bad news for Democrats. In Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood, the last Democrat to hold a statewide office, was re-elected to a fourth term by an impressive 56 percent-44 percent vote. But also in Mississippi, Republican Governor Phil Bryant was re-elected in a 2-1 landslide.
National Democratic leaders were probably more disappointed, however, by the results in the Virginia legislative elections than by Conway’s loss in KY. As Patrick Wilson reports at the Virginia Pilot,

Virginia Republicans handed Gov. Terry McAuliffe a defeat in Tuesday’s General Assembly election, holding their Senate majority in a year when the Democratic governor had predicted his party would take control of the chamber. The House of Delegates retained its strong Republican majority, and the Senate remains in GOP control, 21-19…The GOP kept its Senate majority by holding onto a Richmond-area seat. Republican Glen Sturtevant will replace retiring GOP Sen. John Watkins in the 10th District…Democrats all year expressed confidence they’d win the Senate, and they had star power behind them. They hold all five statewide elected offices in Virginia, and their party leader has touted himself as a job-creating governor.

Democrats did well in Pennsylvania, reports Roll Call’s Eli Yokley:

Democrats swept the three seats up for election on the state’s Supreme Court, and control of the seven-member panel, which could have a broad implication on redistricting in 2020…With the court often tasked with picking the fifth member of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, Democrats will have a leg-up on redrawing the 18 congressional seats in the Keystone State, of which Democrats currently control just five, despite carrying presidential, governor and Senate races.

So yesterday’s elections were not a total disaster for Democrats, as GOP spin will undoubtedly play it. All in all, however, it was surely a better day for Republicans. There is just no point in putting lipstick on the pig of losing yet another governorship and the dashed hopes in swing state Virginia. Dems simply have to do better in statewide races to create enough room to be competitive in congressional races. Perhaps more effort in recruitment, training and funding of potential candidates.
Democratic hopes are now focused on November 21st, when the party’s candidate for Governor, John Bel Edwards hopes to beat the prostitution scandal-tainted Sen. David Vitter in a race for the Governorship. This one is winnable, despite, Louisiana’s GOP tilt in recent years. But it will require an exceptionally well-organized turnout effort focused on both the pro-Democratic base and creative outreach to persuadable voters who are creeped-out by Vitter.

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