There is no sugarcoating yesterday’s election results: Republicans had a bad day. Their losses especially in many suburban areas (such as around Philadelphia) are not a good omen for next year. They were trounced badly in Virginia, despite the supposed Republican-friendly gerrymander. (And let’s see how fast liberals forget about how gerrymandering is an “offense to democracy” when they are in charge of it in more states two years from now. Gerrymandering only became a “scandal” when Republicans got good at it.)
There are still good reasons to think Trump will be re-elected next year, and I’ll return to that subject in a separate item. Beneath the headlines about yesterday’s results, however, are a few things that ought to give Democrats some pause. First, while Republican incumbent Governor Matt Bevin lost in Kentucky, it is likely this had more to do with him personally than with declining Republican fortunes in the bluegrass state. Republicans swept the down ballot statewide races (the rest of the GOP field ran 10 points ahead of Bevin). So all of the triumphant talk among Democrats today that they’ll beat Mitch McConnell next year looks like a great rope-a-dope to get liberals to waste a lot of campaign money on a lost cause.
You’ll note in the table below that the Libertarian candidate, drawing 2% of the vote, accounts for more than Bevin’s margin of defeat. This is not the first time in recent history where a Libertarian candidate may have cost the Republican a close election, though there is some reason to doubt that all or even most of these voters would have gone for the Republican if a Libertarian was not on the ballot. There is considerable evidence that many of these voters wouldn’t have voted at all (this goes for Green Party candidates, too).
Second, while Republicans were getting hammered in Virginia, you aren’t seeing much about how Republicans fared in New Jersey, which isn’t exactly Republican-friendly territory. You have to get to the ninth paragraph of the New York Times election roundup today to find this:
In New Jersey, a state that seemed to be shifting increasingly blue each year, Republicans were on the cusp of their first legislative gains in nearly a decade. With final results still being tallied late Tuesday, Republicans looked likely to pick up two seats in the Assembly and one in the Senate, powered largely by a surge along the southern part of the state where Mr. Trump won easily in 2016 despite Democrats’ local advantage.
This is perhaps evidence that even in deep blue states, there are limits to how much “progressive’ governance voters will tolerate.
Further evidence of this point comes not from party battles but from some ballot initiative results. In increasingly purplish Colorado, voters rejected an attempt to water down the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which liberals have been gunning for ever since it passed almost 30 years ago.
In Washington state, voters rejected the state legislature’s attempt to repeal the state’s prohibition (previously exactly by ballot initiative) on affirmative action quotas. From the Seattle Times (though note the choice of phrasing in the lede):
OLYMPIA — With Referendum 88 trailing by a slim margin, Washingtonians appeared like they might, for the second time in two decades, vote against affirmative action.
With most counties reporting results Tuesday, voters were rejecting the measure 51.3% to 48.7%, in an election that tested ideas of fairness and discrimination. Many more votes remain to be counted. . .
[T]hroughout the campaign, opponents of affirmative action — led by a group of Chinese immigrants — said the policy gives the government the power to discriminate. They criticized a commission that would have been created to oversee diversity efforts at state agencies, and they argued existing benefits for veterans were at risk.
“I think when you add all those together, voters don’t like it,” Linda Yang, a leader of the anti-affirmative-action campaign, Let People Vote, said Tuesday night.
Bonus! Jim Geraghty of National Review reports: “In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger.”