Beto is out and Kamala is soon to follow

The Briefing, Vol. VII, Issue 42

This week:

  • Impeachment is still just partisan
  • Kamala Harris crashes and burns
  • Big state off-year elections this week


Impeachment: Despite the continued and constant media attention to impeachment, the subject has not proceeded as far as one might think. So far, the only document providing relevant information remains the transcript of the conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

The testimony from Alexander Vindman, for example, constituted mostly opinion and characterization, no matter how negative it seemed for Trump. And although some have testified that something was left out of the transcript, most of the witnesses (including Vindman) have testified that the transcript is indeed an accurate and (as much as it matters) complete account of what was said. 

What this all means is that impeachment remains a blank projection screen. It is as weak or as strong, as serious or as frivolous as the beholder wants to make it. As long as impeachment remains in that category, it will remain a purely partisan exercise. This means not only that it won’t work — that Trump will remain in office — but also that no sudden cascade in favor of impeachment is likely to carry Trump over the edge. 

Again, this holds as long as impeachment remains a purely partisan exercise.

Democrats: The weekend’s Washington Post poll found Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, rounding out the top three, with Pete Buttigieg in a distant fourth but clearly leading the rest of the pack. This points to what everyone knows: Biden (at 28 percent nationally) is slipping; Harris (at 23 percent) is surging, and Sanders (at 17 percent) will be out of this race before you know it. 

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris’ candidacy is as dead as the newly departed Beto O’Rourke’s — unlike Beto, she just hasn’t admitted it yet. She is languishing at an abysmal fifth place in her home state of California, behind the mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city. She has been spending money at an unsustainable rate, and her campaign shuffle will get her nowhere. On a national level, polls now have her tied with the likes of Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang. Stick a fork in her.

Governor 2019

Kentucky: Gov. Matt Bevin, R, in a tie with Attorney General Andy Beshear, D, has better than even chances of survival in Tuesday’s election, despite being tied in the only available poll. But it’s far too close for anyone to make a definitive call with confidence. 

Normally, a tie would lean toward the challenger. But Kentucky, long a Democratic stronghold in choosing its local officials, has taken a sharp turn toward Republicans in the last five years, making it one of the very last southern states to realign toward the GOP.

In 2015, was skewed sharply toward Democrats when Bevin first came out of nowhere to become the GOP nominee and win the election by a surprisingly large margin. Before that, in 2014, the polling had been sharply skewed against Sen. Mitch McConnell, R, when he easily won re-election over Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, D, in spite of his abysmal approval ratings. One gets the sense that polling is simply broken in the Bluegrass State.

Both instances signify the transformation of Kentucky from a conservative-leaning but Democratic state into a state where voters simply don’t trust Democrats, and won’t vote them into office even over Republicans they strongly dislike. 

Bevin certainly has low ratings at this time, but again, his chances of survival are good (not overwhelming) nonetheless. 

Louisiana: President Trump has cut an ad and will rally in Louisiana this week ahead of the Nov. 16 runoff between Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Rispone will benefit tremendously given Trump’s popularity in the state, and he should be favored to win.

Think back to the first round of this election. Not only did the two Republican candidates hold Edwards well below 50 percent, but the two of them combined for more than 50 percent overall. That bodes well for Republican chances in two weeks.

Edwards should win in the sense that the state is doing pretty well and he hasn’t had any major scandals in his governorship. But he probably will lose, because Louisiana has changed too much politically. It is telling that his campaign expected to win in the first round but fell so drastically short. Like Kentucky, Louisiana is one of the last southern states to realign. And as in Kentucky, Republican performance is probably underestimated in most Pelican State polling. 

Mississippi: Democrats put their best foot forward by nominating the moderate-to-conservative Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, but their best probably won’t be enough. Despite dissension within the GOP establishment over his nomination, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, R, leads in the late polling and must be considered the favorite to win. 

Reeves will probably win with more votes, but he will almost certainly win more legislative districts than Hood. This is important because an obscure provision in the state constitution requires both a popular vote majority (more than 50%) and a win in at least 62 of the state’s 122 state House districts. Otherwise, the race is thrown to the state House, which Republicans control. The last time this happened was 1999, when Ronnie Musgrove failed to win a popular vote majority. State House Democrats voted him into office along party lines.

Democrats have telegraphed their intention to challenge this provision in the event that Reeves wins in this manner. They even hope that a judge will overturn the election on this basis, on the grounds that the process is racist. However, such a drastic court ruling, which could leave the state’s politics in chaos for months, probably won’t not be necessary.

Legislature 2019

Virginia: Thanks in part to redistricting help from courts in the state House, Democrats are expected to make the one-seat gain they need in each legislative chamber to take over the complete trifecta in Virginia. 

This would give an increasingly left-wing state party complete control of the Commonwealth for the first time in 25 years, and just in time for them to gerrymander the state in a more favorable way at all levels for the next decade. 

It is a grave sign of the weakness of Virginia’s Republican Party that this can happen after the Democratic governor was caught dressing up in blackface and the Democratic lieutenant governor was credibly accused of rape.