Election 2023 results and analysis: Democrats excel in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia

Election 2023 results and analysis: Democrats excel in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia

Nov. 7, 2023, was Election Day in at least 37 states, and Americans cast their votes on everything from governorships to local referenda. When the dust settled, it was a solid night for Democrats and their allies: According to ABC News projections, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection in Kentucky, and Ohio voters passed Issue 1 to codify abortion rights in the state constitution. The AP also projected that Democrats won both chambers of the Virginia legislature and an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, there were a few bright spots for Republicans: ABC News projected that Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves beat back a strong challenge from Democrat Brandon Presley.

As results came in, 538 analysts were breaking them down in real time with live updates, analysis and commentary. Read our full live blog below.

Latest Developments

Nov 8, 1:17 AM

Wrapping things up

That's a wrap! In the key races of the night, both parties held serve with Democratic Gov. Beshear's win in Kentucky and Republican Gov. Reeves's win in Mississippi. Other than that race, most of the headliners went to Democrats. In Virginia, they staved off the threat of a GOP trifecta by taking control of both chambers of the state legislature. In Ohio, both liberal ballot measures succeeded with near supermajorities. And in Pennsylvania, Democrats won a vacant seat to secure a 5-2 majority on the state Supreme Court.

Thanks for joining us! We'll see you in 2024 ... but we'll all get some sleep first.

Tia Yang, 538

Nov 8, 1:09 AM

Final thought: Democrats did great, but this is not the 2024 electorate

The 2023 elections were unambiguously good for Democrats, and liberals. Despite fierce national political headwinds and a better competitor than his 2019 matchup, Andy Beshear expanded his vote margin and held the governorship in deep-red Kentucky. In Virginia, Democrats have won control of the state legislature, flipping the House of Delegates and holding their thin majority in the Senate. Their win is a rebuke, in part, of an anti-abortion push by Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin that saturated airwaves in the final weeks of the race. Democrats won a House special election in Rhode Island by about the same margin Biden did in 2020. And a near supermajority of Ohioans voted in favor of constitutional protections for abortion and to legalize cannabis for recreational use. That's a lot of "D" W's!

But the population of Americans who cast ballots in today's races will not be the same population that turns out next year. There is strong reason to suspect it will be more Republican-leaning than voters today. Because higher levels of education are correlated with political engagement (i.e., turnout) and, increasingly, the likelihood of voting for Democrats, off-year voters have become more reliably Democratic in recent years. But in presidential years, when more voters turn out, outcomes revert to the mean. "Low-engagement" voters, who are on average less educated and more Republican, show up. Per ABC News's exit polls, 46 percent of people who voted in Ohio today said they voted for Biden in 2020, versus 43 percent for Trump. That's an 11 point swing from 2020 just because of the types of people who cast ballots. As another example, Democrats did not perform nearly as well in Rhode Island's congressional special election today, with moderate turnout, as they have been in recent special elections, where turnout has been lower.

That's not to say that 2024 will be bad for Democrats. Maybe the demographic and political composition of voters will perfectly match the breakdown in 2020 and they'll be even more Democratic-leaning. That's a possibility! But it is not likely. The fact is that America's current educational divide makes it likely that the population of 2024 voters — ephemeral as it inherently is, spontaneously existing for a day and then disappearing into the ether — will be more favorable for Republicans than today's was. Democrats should celebrate their victories tonight, but they should not use them to dismiss other indicators of a close race next year.

—G. Elliott Morris, 538

Nov 8, 1:08 AM

Final thought: Consider tonight’s results on their own terms, not 2024's

Tonight largely went down as I — and the polls — expected. Democrats won the Kentucky governorship but fell just short in Mississippi. Virginia was close, but Democrats eked out a win. Ohio’s two liberal ballot measures passed easily. Overall, Democrats should be quite happy with these results.

But I think a lot of Democrats will be tempted to say that these results bode well for them in 2024, and I just don’t buy that. I don’t think anyone expects Biden to perform as well as Beshear nationwide next year. Ohio’s election was a ballot measure, not a Democrat-versus-Republican race. And Virginia’s legislative elections have historically not been very predictive of the following year’s election. (Remember, in 2021, Republicans had a good off-year election, but Democrats ended up having a pretty decent midterm after the Dobbs decision came down and changed the national environment.)

So my recommendation is not to read too much into what these results mean for the future, but rather just to appreciate their importance in the present. The 2023 elections will have tons of policy implications, and that’s a big enough deal on their own without tying them to the presidential race! Democrats had a good Election Day today, no matter what happens in 2024.

—Nathaniel Rakich, 538

Nov 8, 12:58 AM

Final thought: Biden's struggles didn't seem to cause trouble for Democrats

I think it’s fair to say that we’re in uncharted territory in the world of modern-day elections. There are two possible options that account for Democrats’ success tonight: One, the races that took place were so localized and dependent on individual candidates that it’s no reflection at all of the national political environment, since voters regularly differentiate between state and federal elections. The other possibility is that voters are disentangling the presidency from their political preferences writ large, and the Democratic Party hasn’t taken a hit even though its standard-bearer, President Joe Biden, has an average approval rating below 40 percent: “Tonight feels a lot like 2022, when Democrats won in spite of Biden, not because of him. In 2024, we'll see if Biden can win in spite of Biden.”

—Leah Askarinam, 538

Nov 8, 12:55 AM

What are our takeaways from today's results?

The Mississippi governor's race is our last expected major projection of the evening! And with that, we'll close as usual by asking for folks' final thoughts on today's results. What are everyone's takeaways here from a relatively strong showing for Democrats?

Tia Yang, 538

Nov 8, 1:15 AM

Reeves projected to win reelection in Mississippi's gubernatorial race

ABC News projects that Republican Gov. Tate Reeves will win reelection, defeating Democrat Brandon Presley. With some votes left to count, Reeves may end up winning by a smaller margin that he did in 2019, but it was enough to win. As a result, Mississippi's state government will remain fully in Republican hands.

PHOTO: Mississippi incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and his family speak to supporters during an election night watch party at The Refuge Hotel & Conference Center on Nov. 07, 2023 in Flowood, Miss. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Mississippi incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and his family speak to supporters during an election night watch party at The Refuge Hotel & Conference Center on Nov. 07, 2023 in Flowood, Miss. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Geoffrey Skelley, 538

Nov 8, 1:44 AM

Democrats pad their majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Per the AP, Democrat Dan McCaffery will defeat Republican Carolyn Carluccio in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race, winning around 53 percent to 47 percent of the vote. The outcome of this race won’t change party control of the seven-member court, but Democrats will pad their current 4-2 majority by filling a vacant seat.

McCaffery ended the evening with margins similar to the last top-of-ballot candidate in the state, Sen. John Fetterman, in most areas, but it looks like his slightly bigger margin of victory came from the eastern part of the state, including the pivotal Bucks County in the Philly suburbs. That county saw big turnout efforts from both sides this cycle, particularly with regard to controversial school board races, which Democrats also swept tonight.

—Tia Yang, 538

Nov 8, 12:34 AM

Democrats capture Virginia's legislature

Democrats have clinched both chambers of Virginia's General Assembly, perhaps nixing any lingering dreams that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin had about using a strong GOP performance as a springboard to a late entry into the 2024 presidential race. But it does look like Democrats will have the thinnest of majorities. In the state Senate, Democrats have won 21 seats to the GOP's 18, with one extremely tight race looking more likely than not to also go for the Republicans. In the House of Delegates, Democrats have won 51 seats to the GOP's 46, but Republicans could sweep the three extremely close contests that have not yet been projected. This is all per Virginia Public Access Project's projections.

Geoffrey Skelley, 538

Nov 8, 12:21 AM

More chaos in the Bridgeport mayor’s race

For much of the night, Democrat-turned-independent John Gomes was leading incumbent Democrat Joe Ganim in the race for mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut. But according to Christopher Keating of the Hartford Courant, late-counted absentee ballots put Ganim in the lead by just 173 votes, and Gomes is conceding the election. That’s probably not going to go over well considering what happened in the primary, which Ganim narrowly won amid allegations of absentee-voter fraud. In fact, a judge ordered a redo of the Democratic primary between Ganim and Gomes after video surfaced of a city employee dropping absentee ballots in a dropbox, in apparent violation of Connecticut’s ban on ballot harvesting. As a result, Ganim’s win could be moot — unless he wins the redone Democratic primary, in which case this general-election result would stand.

—Nathaniel Rakich, 538

Nov 8, 12:22 AM

Reeves looks probable to win in Mississippi, albeit narrowly

With 83 percent of the expected vote reporting, Reeves leads Presley 52.6 percent to 46.0 percent in Mississippi's gubernatorial race. The margin will get closer, as only about 60 percent of the votes in heavily Democratic Hinds County have been tallied. Yet the trends in the race favor Reeves slightly: In the counties where 90 percent or more of the expected vote has reported (45 of the state's 90), Reeves is performing about 1 point worse in margin than he did in his 5-point victory in 2019. But he's still running ahead of where he needs to be to win tonight, so barring some very unfavorable results for him in the yet-to-be-counted ballots, Reeves will win, Reeves will win.

Geoffrey Skelley, 538

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