After elections, should GOP worry about 2020?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

What’s happening

Tuesday night was election night across the United States. Although it was an off-year for much of the country, there were still several important contests on the ballot. 

Perhaps the most high-profile race was for Kentucky governor, where Democratic challenger Andy Beshear appears to have unseated Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, though the race hasn’t yet been called. Democrats also took full control of the Virginia Legislature on Tuesday, clearing the way for the agenda of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. 

Republicans were able to retain control of the Mississippi governorship, although the race was much closer than the last time the state's top job was on the ballot.

Why there’s debate

The gains made by Democrats in this year’s election are clear; whether they’re a harbinger of things to come in 2020 — when the presidency, control of Congress and several governorships will be at stake — is less obvious. Some analysts see signs that the GOP should be worried. Tuesday’s results can be viewed as continuing a trend of progressive victories over the past three years, which saw a Democrat win a Senate seat in Alabama in 2017 and the party take over the House in 2018. 

Bevin looks to have lost in Kentucky despite an appearance by President Trump at a rally with him Monday — which some suggest signals a decline in Trump’s ability to turn out voters. Some analysts point to gains made by Democrats in suburban districts as a trend that is likely to continue in 2020. 

On the other hand, there are reasons to believe that Tuesday’s results aren’t necessarily indicative of what will happen next year. Bevin’s loss could be more about his troubled legacy than the Republican Party as a whole. He was extremely unpopular and the GOP swept all other statewide seats on the ballot, which could be a positive sign for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will be up for reelection. Others point to the fact that none of the big Democratic gains happened in swing states, which are expected to decide the 2020 presidential election.

What’s next

Bevin has refused to concede in the Kentucky governor’s race, which may trigger a recount. More evidence of where the two parties stand will come later this month in a runoff election for  Louisiana governor, as Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards looks to hold off Republican challenger Eddie Rispone in what is expected to be a tight race. 


Worrying signs for Republicans

Impeachment might not be a motivating force among the GOP base

“Republicans have been saying that impeachment would backfire on Democrats and enthuse Trump's rural base. But that didn't pan out Tuesday in Kentucky and Virginia. Democratic voters in urban areas, on the other hand, are clearly fired up.” — Domenico Montararo, NPR

Suburban voters are turning to Democrats

“The suburban revolt against President Donald Trump’s Republican Party is growing. And if nothing else, the GOP’s struggle across the South on Tuesday revealed that Republicans don’t have a plan to fix it.” — Steve Peoples, Associated Press

The election is part of a blue wave that started in response to the 2016 election

“The more immediate significance of the results is what they portend for the Democrats’ much bigger battle ahead: They show that the electoral fire on the left sparked by Donald Trump’s stunning victory in 2016 is still burning hot three years later.” — Russell Berman, The Atlantic

Bevin’s loss shows Trump only has so much power to turn out voters

“Although the issues that dominated the race were not national in nature, Trump’s inability to rescue Bevin with a last-minute visit spoke to the limits of the president’s appeal.” — HuffPost

There appears to be an enthusiasm gap between Democratic and GOP voters

“Virginia and Kentucky demonstrated one clear thing: Democrats were fired up. No matter what caveats exist in each state, that’s great news for the Democratic Party heading into 2020.” 
— Ella Nilsen, Tara Golshan, Li Zhou and German Lopez, Vox

Not so bad for GOP

Dem presidential candidates might be too liberal 

“While Beshear’s apparent win has Democrats cheering, it also could be a reminder to the party's Medicare for All backers that a more moderate health care stance is what pulled a Democrat over the edge in a red state last night. In other words: you can take defending Obamacare anywhere in the country and win. But you can’t do the same with Medicare for All.” — NBC News

The result in Kentucky is specific to Bevin being unpopular

“KY just elected the first Republican attorney general since 1948 and the first African-American attorney generals in the state’s history. This is one piece of evidence that if Bevin loses, it’s about Bevin and not some sign that there are bigger factors at work.” — Cook Political Report analyst Jennifer Duffy

Trump supporters will be more motivated when the president is on the ballot in 2020

“A winning presidential candidate attracts a lot of voters who just aren’t that motivated when their guy isn’t on the ticket, and the president inevitably stirs up a lot of anger, motivation, and enthusiasm in the opposition. … Trump is the walking, talking Democratic get-out-the-vote operation in America’s suburbs.” — Jim Geraghty, National Review

There were no major races in swing states 

“You’ll note that Republicans maintain an edge in political control of this country outside Washington. And that’s important to remember as we head toward a presidential election that is won in the electoral college, not the popular vote.” — Aaron Blake, Washington Post

Off-year elections aren’t representative of future contests

“State races are a different animal from federal contests.” — Chris Cillizza, CNN

Is there a topic you’d like to see covered in “The 360”? Send your suggestions to

Read more “360”s

Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: AP, Getty Images