Democrats looked to be on their way to significant victories in off-year elections tonight, with Andy Beshear projected to win reelection in Kentucky, an abortion rights ballot measure easily approved in Ohio and Virginia’s state Senate likely to remain under party control.
As cable news networks deployed graphics and teams of pundits to offer their takes, there was a bit of vexation when it comes to making sense of it all when it comes to 2024.
Earlier in the evening, CNN released the results of a poll showing President Joe Biden trailing former President Donald Trump in a rematch, giving fuel to the storyline that Democrats are facing a five-alarm fire when it comes to their prospects next year.
On MSNBC, as it was clear that Beshear was on his way to winning reelection over Republican Daniel Cameron in the deep-red state, Chris Hayes said, “If everything was going as poorly as people say things are going, particularly economically, I don’t think what you would predict is an incumbent Democratic governor of the state of Kentucky … is going to win this race. There is a little bit of a mismatch between what people tell pollsters right track, wrong track and all this stuff, and a Democratic governor in Kentucky widening his margin [from 2019 to 2023] when you have got a Democrat in the White House.”
On CNN, after the Kentucky race was called, Jake Tapper asked whether there was a “Beshear template” for other candidates to follow. Abby Phillip replied, “I think when you talk to Democrats who are running on issues and in campaigns across the country, every single one of these races is different in a certain way, and each one of these candidates has to be, as both parties will say, the right fit for their state, for their district.”
She added, “You didn’t see him bear hugging Joe Biden, hugging national Democrats, even hugging just a national narrative in his state. I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of that frankly, from wither party this coming cycle because what the polls really show us is that both parties at a national level are particularly toxic.”
That analysis belies some of the recent punditry — that the longtime adage of all politics is local no longer applies, as now national politics is infecting local races, even down to the level of school board campaigns.
Later on CNN, commentator Kate Bedingfield, former communications director for the Biden White House, suggested that the president probably would have gotten blame had Beshear lost but would not get credit for his victory.
For its part, the White House quickly seized on the results in Ohio, where voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional measure to protect access to abortion. Previewing how he will present the issue on the trail, Biden said that the vote was evidence that Republicans have an “extreme and dangerous agenda” that “is out-of-step with the vast majority of Americans.”
In Virginia, Democrats were leading in their efforts to retain control of the state Senate, something that would likely prevent Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin from seeing through a 15-week ban on abortion.
A potential bright spot for the GOP was in Mississippi, where Governor Tate Reeves was leading in early returns over Democrat Brandon Presley, a second cousin to Elvis Presley.
On Fox News, Sean Hannity opened the show by going to Bret Baier, who reported on the projected Beshear victory and that of the Ohio ballot measure.
To little surprise, Hannity wasn’t ready to extrapolate anything good out of the results for the current White House occupant. “Regardless of what happens tonight, Republicans and Democrats now agree — Joe Biden, he’s in deep trouble,” Hannity insisted.
Later, Fox News commentator and Outnumbered co-host Kayleigh McEnany said, “We must recognize that as a party, good polling does not always translate into resounding victory. It must be operationalized with a mail in vote strategy, with voting early strategy, with a get-out-the vote strategy to put a tailwind behind those very poor numbers for Biden and very good numbers for Trump.”
In other races, Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated Central Park Five, won a seat on the New York City Council. His story was depicted in Ava DuVernay’s series When They See Us.