By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – Americans may never know whether the Russians consider President Donald Trump an asset.
Tuesday’s election results demonstrate, though, that Democrats should think of him as their secret weapon.
Trump’s spit-in-the-punchbowl, turn-every-annoyance-into-a-crisis style of leadership has allowed Democrats to rack up victories in places where their party not long ago was as popular as chicken pox.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
A generation ago, Virginia was a GOP bastion. On Tuesday, voters handed the state legislature – and thus the state – over to the Democrats because Virginia Democrats already controlled the governor’s office.
In 2016, Trump carried Kentucky by 30 points. Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, and the president himself cast the 2019 election as a referendum on the Trump presidency. At a rally just before the polls opened, President Trump all but begged Kentuckians not to repudiate him.
But they did.
Bevin’s Democratic opponent, Andy Beshear, squeaked out a victory slender to the point of emaciation. With all the ballots counted, he led Bevin by a little more than 5,000 votes out of around 1.4 million cast.
Bevin’s apparent defeat – he refused to concede on election night – wasn’t all Trump’s fault. Bevin had done a lot of things on his own to offend voters.
But many of Bevin’s flaws were qualities he shared with the president. Both always had to have things their own way and refused to consider anyone else’s concerns or point of view as valid. And both escalated every difference of opinion into all-out war.
The results in the Bluegrass state seem to be less a victory for Beshear and his fellow Democrats than a request from Kentuckians for a return to the days of courtesy and consideration in public discourse.
The GOP did score one Tuesday win, but it was more in the category of a dubious achievement than a resounding triumph.
Republican Tate Reeves defeated Democrat Jim Hood, 52 percent to 47 percent, in the Mississippi governor’s race. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence crowed about the victory Tuesday night, which was a little bit like the New England Patriots doing a celebratory dance in the end zone because they scored a touchdown against a junior-high squad.
Even here in Indiana, we saw Democrats make gains in spots where Republican defeats once were considered impossible, such as Zionsville and Fishers.
This doesn’t mean Democrats should spend a lot of time patting themselves on the back.
They had a lot of help from President Trump and the national Republican Party along the way.
While it would be premature to offer definitive analysis on what happened Tuesday, the early indicators are that the suburban revolt against President Trump’s campaign to turn the GOP into the party of the barbarians at the gate has continued and even grown. Those longtime Republican voters may not all be voting for Democrats now, but those that aren’t do appear to be staying home.
If President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, were looking for ways to shrink the Republican tent, their plan appears to be working to perfection.
Democrats doubtless will feel emboldened by these results. At the very least, voters didn’t send them any signals that they should slow down proceedings regarding the president’s impeachment.
Even so, Democrats might want to reconsider the whole impeachment question.
Thanks to this president, Republicans are losing races that should have been locks for the GOP and turning even sure things into nail-biters. He’s also making it possible for Democrats to compete and even prevail in areas of the country where their party once was on the edge of extinction.
As long as Donald Trump remains the Republican standard-bearer, he also likely will be the Democrats’ best friend.
Even their ace in the hole.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.