We look at what state election results tell us about the power of President Trump.
Emily Wagster Pettus, reporter for The Associated Press covering Mississippi politics. (@EWagsterPettus)
Carah Ong Whaley, associate director of the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement at James Madison University. She previously worked at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. (@CarahOng)
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Associated Press: “Elections in 4 states offer tests of 2020 voter enthusiasm” — “Gubernatorial and legislative elections in four states Tuesday will test voter enthusiasm and party organization amid impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump and a fevered Democratic presidential primary scramble.
“Results in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia won’t necessarily predict whether Trump will be reelected or which party will control Congress after the general election next fall. But partisans of all stripes invariably will use these odd-year elections for clues about how voters are reacting to the impeachment saga and whether the Republican president is losing ground among suburban voters who rewarded Democrats in the 2018 midterms and will prove critical again next November.
“Trump is eager to nationalize whatever happens, campaigning Monday evening in Kentucky for embattled Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, a first-term Trump ally, as he tries to withstand Democrat Andy Beshear, the attorney general whose father was the state’s last Democratic governor. The president campaigned in Mississippi on Friday, trying to boost Republican Tate Reeves in a tight governor’s race against Democrat Jim Hood. Reeves is lieutenant governor; Hood is attorney general.
“Legislative seats are on the ballots in New Jersey and in Virginia, with the latter presidential battleground state offering perhaps the best 2020 bellwether. Democrats had a big 2017 in the state, sweeping statewide offices by wide margins and gaining seats in the legislature largely on the strength of a strong suburban vote that previewed how Democrats would go on to flip the U.S. House a year later. This time, Virginia Democrats are looking to add to their momentum by flipping enough Republican seats to gain trifecta control of the statehouse: meaning the governor’s office and both legislative chambers.”
CNN: “Tuesday’s elections are (mostly) about Trump” — “It used to be said that ‘all politics is local.’ That’s not really the case anymore.
“Voters may be casting ballots for politicians to state government, but their feelings about President Donald Trump will be paramount. That will be on full display in Tuesday’s elections in Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia.
“Kentucky’s Republican Gov. Matt Bevin would likely be a sitting duck if Tuesday’s gubernatorial election were about him. His job approval ratings have continuously been below his disapproval ratings. Even with a late rally in his approval ratings, his net approval (approval – disapproval) rating is hovering around -10 points.
“Yet, Bevin has overcome an early deficit against Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear (whose father was governor). In an average of nonpartisan polls, Bevin actually runs slightly ahead of Beshear, though the race is within the margin of error.
“If Bevin does pull out the win, it will be because of Trump. The President won the state by about 30 points in 2016. His net approval rating is about +15 points in Kentucky in an average of recent polls.”
USA Today: “What Tuesday’s elections could tell us a year before Trump faces voters” — “Today’s off-year elections are state and local affairs, but they will still tell us something about the national political scene one year before the 2020 election.
“How much redder is rural America growing as the blueness of cities spreads to the suburbs?
“Will the governors’ races in Kentucky, Mississippi and – later this month in Louisiana –be more evidence that voters are increasingly unwilling to vote one way for federal office and another for state leaders?
“And then there’s what the elections could say about the popularity of President Donald Trump.
“The president tried to push GOP gubernatorial candidates over the finish line while staying clear of Republicans’ efforts to hold onto their narrow majority in the Virginia state legislature – all while fighting a growing impeachment inquiry in Washington.
“There is no getting away from what is happening nationally, even in these off-year elections,” said Page Gardner, president of the Voter Participation Center, which tries to increase engagement among unmarried women, young people and people of color. “At the end of the day, whatever you say, you’re running in an operating environment that is being defined by his presidency.”
Washington Post: “Governor’s races in three states test whether every election now is about Trump” — “As Andy Beshear campaigned through eastern Kentucky this weekend, the Democratic candidate for governor seemed well aware that he didn’t have much time to deliver his message before President Trump arrives here to attempt to suffocate it ahead of Tuesday’s election.
“In speech after speech, in rural counties where Trump received as much as 80 percent of the vote just two years ago, Beshear delivered his closing message to voters in less than five minutes. He promised to expand health care, support teachers and public education, and stop the hard-edge, divisive politics that have consumed Kentucky and the nation over the past several years. He did not mention Trump or the impeachment inquiry targeting him.
“My gift to everyone at the end of this campaign is a much shorter speech,” Beshear quipped to supporters on Saturday after one especially abrupt address at a union hall here on the banks of the Ohio River.
“But for Beshear and Jim Hood, the Democratic candidate for governor in Mississippi, such policy focus is being tested as Trump storms into these two Republican-friendly states and attempts to turn Tuesday’s governor’s election into a referendum on him and his possible impeachment at the hands of congressional Democrats.
“In a brash, hour-long campaign speech Friday night, Trump railed against House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry when he appeared in Mississippi in support of Hood’s GOP opponent, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. Trump will campaign for Beshear’s Republican opponent, Gov. Matt Bevin, on Monday night, just hours before Kentucky voters go the polls.”
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.