by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republicans fell short on Tuesday night, but it wasn’t a debacle, either. The results were well within the margin of what you’d expect.
In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin made a crusade of taking unified control of the state legislature and instead lost both chambers. Republicans picked up one senate seat, falling just short of control, and lost three house seats, just giving up control. This is disappointing, but not shocking given Virginia’s blue coloration. If the outcome is a blow to Youngkin, there is no doubt that the GOP is immensely better off than it was prior to his arrival in 2021.
Andy Beshear, the popular Democratic governor of Kentucky, turned back a challenge from Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Kentucky is a heavily Republican state, although one with a habit of electing Democratic governors, especially ones named Beshear. …
… In Mississippi, a state not in the habit of electing Democratic governors lately, Republican Governor Tate Reeves won reelection.
Finally, a pro-abortion measure swept to victory in Ohio.
Two main culprits are being cited for the lackluster GOP night. One, as we’ve already addressed here, is the issue of abortion. Democratic legislative candidates in Virginia leaned heavily on it, as did Beshear, and Ohio was the latest in an unrelieved series of ballot-measure defeats for pro-lifers. In response, some on the right are telling pro-lifers to go away and let Republicans focus on more popular causes. This, of course, would be a moral abdication, and a political overreaction, since many Republicans who have championed pro-life laws are thriving in the post-Dobbs environment.
The other is Donald Trump. He, of course, wasn’t on the ballot, but the charge of “MAGA extremist” played a prominent role in Democratic attacks in Virginia. Republicans are always going to be accused of being “extremists” of some variety or other. It matters, though, that they really are associated with Trump, who remains the de facto leader of the party and is the presumptive 2024 nominee despite conduct that would be disqualifying for anyone else.