Message from Kentucky: Strong candidates matter

President Trump tried.  And he warned Kentuckians at a huge rally a few days ago that the gubernatorial race was going to be viewed by all as a referendum on him.

So the apparent loss of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin to Democrat Andy Beshear last night is a stinger.  A Trump endorsement is usually a surefire means of winning the election, and it has been up until now for nearly all candidates in special elections, which is why so many candidates want them.  Once Trump endorses, Republicans almost always win. 

But apparently, not even a Trump endorsement was enough for Bevin, who had some popularity problems.  The punditocracy is calling curtains for Trump.  The Washington Post is calling it "embarrassing."  But there's plenty of reason to be dubious.

Bevin seems to have lost for three reasons: 

One, as the Washington Post notes, he got into office only four years ago by a thin 85,000-vote margin.  So he was on thin ice all through his term and didn't work to increase his support.

Two, he had a third-party challenge.  Sen. Rand Paul is a popular senator in Kentucky, and on that ground alone, his libertarian allies managed to run a third-party candidate who won 2% of the vote.  Had they not, Bevin might have pulled through.

Three, and this seems to have been the big one: Bevin wasn't popular.  A poll that ran in April had him ranked as the least popular governor in all 50 states.  According to the WaPo, he had a brash, abrasive personality that tended to annoy people.  The Kentucky style is pretty gentlemanly and ladylike, so what's been branded as his imitation of Trump's New York brash abrasiveness probably didn't go over all that well with voters accustomed to other approaches.  He may even have come off as inauthentic, a pale imitator of Trump, which isn't a sign of a good candidate.

Bottom line: He shouldn't have been the candidate.  Like Roy Moore, who lost a Senate race in Alabama to a Democrat a few years ago, Bevin just wasn't a good candidate.  Since he was the incumbent, though, the GOP had to run with him.  Maybe it shouldn't have.  Not even a roaring Trump endorsement seems good enough to win against a weak candidate, particularly one with personality issues, given that Democrats, with only socialism to sell, always run candidates on personality.

Now, for sure, the Democrats are going to be emboldened in their "impeach Trump and retake Congress and the White House" plan by this incident.  That's going to give them energy, which isn't a good thing.

But it seems to be an isolated incident, given that most candidates endorsed by Trump have run away with victory.  In Mississippi, Republicans won by a large margin.  In Kentucky, Republicans made gains, too, and it was only the Republican governor who lost.  According to the WaPo, the Republicans picked up the state attorney general's seat, finding a good candidate in a black conservative.  The mistake was in running Bevin.  A Trump endorsement is a mighty thing, but it can't do a thing for a weak candidate. 

Image credit: NBC News via YouTube screen shot.

President Trump tried.  And he warned Kentuckians at a huge rally a few days ago that the gubernatorial race was going to be viewed by all as a referendum on him.

So the apparent loss of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin to Democrat Andy Beshear last night is a stinger.  A Trump endorsement is usually a surefire means of winning the election, and it has been up until now for nearly all candidates in special elections, which is why so many candidates want them.  Once Trump endorses, Republicans almost always win. 

But apparently, not even a Trump endorsement was enough for Bevin, who had some popularity problems.  The punditocracy is calling curtains for Trump.  The Washington Post is calling it "embarrassing."  But there's plenty of reason to be dubious.

Bevin seems to have lost for three reasons: 

One, as the Washington Post notes, he got into office only four years ago by a thin 85,000-vote margin.  So he was on thin ice all through his term and didn't work to increase his support.

Two, he had a third-party challenge.  Sen. Rand Paul is a popular senator in Kentucky, and on that ground alone, his libertarian allies managed to run a third-party candidate who won 2% of the vote.  Had they not, Bevin might have pulled through.

Three, and this seems to have been the big one: Bevin wasn't popular.  A poll that ran in April had him ranked as the least popular governor in all 50 states.  According to the WaPo, he had a brash, abrasive personality that tended to annoy people.  The Kentucky style is pretty gentlemanly and ladylike, so what's been branded as his imitation of Trump's New York brash abrasiveness probably didn't go over all that well with voters accustomed to other approaches.  He may even have come off as inauthentic, a pale imitator of Trump, which isn't a sign of a good candidate.

Bottom line: He shouldn't have been the candidate.  Like Roy Moore, who lost a Senate race in Alabama to a Democrat a few years ago, Bevin just wasn't a good candidate.  Since he was the incumbent, though, the GOP had to run with him.  Maybe it shouldn't have.  Not even a roaring Trump endorsement seems good enough to win against a weak candidate, particularly one with personality issues, given that Democrats, with only socialism to sell, always run candidates on personality.

Now, for sure, the Democrats are going to be emboldened in their "impeach Trump and retake Congress and the White House" plan by this incident.  That's going to give them energy, which isn't a good thing.

But it seems to be an isolated incident, given that most candidates endorsed by Trump have run away with victory.  In Mississippi, Republicans won by a large margin.  In Kentucky, Republicans made gains, too, and it was only the Republican governor who lost.  According to the WaPo, the Republicans picked up the state attorney general's seat, finding a good candidate in a black conservative.  The mistake was in running Bevin.  A Trump endorsement is a mighty thing, but it can't do a thing for a weak candidate. 

Image credit: NBC News via YouTube screen shot.