In this edition: A recap of this week's big elections, a look at the “elitism" debate inside the Democratic primary, and some answers about what the heck is happening in Kentucky.
There will be at least 772 superdelegates for the next Democratic convention, which should keep everyone nice and calm when they see four-way tied polls. This is the Trailer.
Also: There'll be no Trailer on Sunday, as campaigning slows down a little bit on Veterans Day weekend. But we'll be back next week.
This week's off-off-year elections packed a decent amount of political change onto just a few ballots. As of January, there will be one more state, Virginia, governed top to bottom by Democrats; there will probably be one fewer, Kentucky, with Republicans in full control. The nation's biggest city passed a major voting change, its fourth-biggest set up a wild mayoral runoff, and its sixth nearly wiped out the Republican Party. Here's what stood out.
“Virginia is officially blue.” The past few years had been hard on the Republican Party of Virginia, but 2019 opened with bounteous political gifts. First, freshman Del. Kathy Tran stumbled in a hearing on her legislation to loosen laws governing late-term abortions, agreeing with a Republican who asked whether it would allow an abortion for “a woman is about to give birth.” Then, Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician, gave a blunt radio interview in which he described what happened if a nonviable baby was delivered: “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
A Northam critic, angered by the interview, provided a conservative website with what looked to be a photo of the governor, then a medical student, in blackface. By the end of the month, Virginia's governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general were engulfed by scandals, with most of the Democrats' 2020 presidential candidates urging at least Northam to resign.
It's worth remembering all that because Republicans failed to turn any of it into wins. Democrats gained total control over the state Tuesday, not by a landslide, but by enough to run the General Assembly ahead of 2021's redistricting process. (Democrats have not run a Virginia redistricting session since 1991.) They wiped out Republicans in Northern Virginia and gained ground around Richmond and in the Tidewater region, even after Vice President Pence made a last-minute trip to help Tidewater-area Republicans. The president never campaigned in the state, and the only Republican he endorsed, with a tweet, lost badly.
What happened? Democrats invested early, and the Republican brand kept getting battered by the president's politics. In December 2018, after midterms in which Democrats picked up three U.S. House seats on Republican-drawn maps, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee sketched out a multimillion-dollar effort to win the “off-off-year” election and stuck to it even through the debacles of February.
“There was a point in this cycle when some national folks thought Virginia was off the table,” said Jessica Post, the DLCC's president. “We had a plan, and investors asked us if there was really a path forward.”
Much of the story has been told by The Post's Virginia politics team, such as former governor Terry McAuliffe giving up his presidential ambitions to fill Northam's role as fundraiser-in-chief. This year, as in 2017, national liberal groups recruited candidates and put money into the state, with Democratic-aligned spending running about $12 million ahead of Republican-aligned spending. Democrats also benefited from court decisions that redrew the old Republican gerrymander, putting districts that had been resistant to the 2017 “blue wave” closer to the shore.
But that came after the Northam debacle, which Democrats responded to by keeping their campaigns focused on two issues: Medicaid expansion (which they'd passed) and gun control (which they hadn't). A DLCC poll, shown to donors and then shared widely in March, found that even after Northam refused to resign, scandal was not a voter-motivating issue. Health care remained far and away the dominant topic, and Democrats had an advantage on it.
The Democrats' comeback started in April, after candidates had to release their first-quarter fundraising. Republicans lost the quarter, despite everything, which perked up national Democrats. Polling found that most voters did not want Northam to resign. He largely vanished for months as Democrats built campaigns and, for the first time in ages, recruited in more districts than the GOP. By autumn, Republicans were trying to blur the distinctions between the parties, and only in October did they really begin pivoting back to harder partisan messaging about “socialism” and abortion.
That sharp turn probably saved some a few seats, with a number of 50-to-50 races breaking for Republicans. But it wasn't enough. Tran had won by 22 points in 2017; after her abortion gaffe, which became the focus of a national Republican campaign to run against “infanticide,” her margin shrank to 20 points.
Within hours of the election, some conservatives were writing off Virginia as the latest California-style cautionary tale of what could happen if immigrants were allowed to move in and vote. “The undeniable fact is that demographic changes throughout the state, but especially in Northern Virginia, have altered what was once a moderate to right-of-center state,” said Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Professional Republicans, poring over maps where the party was bleeding out in well-off suburbs, had a different take.
“Republicans have a messaging problem and a money problem — the latter of which is where our growing relationship can help to turn the tide,” Republican State Leadership Committee President Austin Chambers wrote in a memo aimed at donors, with a nod at upcoming redistricting fights. “If Republicans do not win in the states next year, a decade’s worth of losses — much like the ones we saw last night in Virginia — are just around the corner.”
White, rural America is getting redder, everywhere. Tuesday night's elections happened across the most demographically diverse turf imaginable, from San Francisco to Appalachia. Democratic candidates ranged from Chesa Boudin, the Rhodes scholar son of Weather Underground activists, to Jim Hood, the antiabortion, pro-gun attorney general of Mississippi.
Nothing really altered the main trend of post-2012 elections: Rural areas got redder. That was most visible in Mississippi, where Hood's ability to win white conservatives (he'd done it four times downballot) largely vanished. Hood lost 31 white, rural counties that he'd won four years earlier, and his margins shrank even in his home base. Chickasaw County, where he'd continued to live as attorney general, gave him 79 percent of the vote in 2015; it gave him 61 percent this week.
As David Wasserman pointed out for NBC News, Hood could have mitigated those losses with higher black turnout. A surge in black voters last year made Democrat Mike Espy competitive in a special Senate election; turnout in majority black counties this year fell by 8 percent. Hood ran nearly 6,000 votes behind Espy in Jackson's Hinds County. Hood's loss was decisive, but there were urban and rural black votes that he could have put into play and didn't.
Other rural Democrats, in whiter areas, did worse. In Pennsylvania, Republicans picked up six county commissions, completing their domination of the southwest part of the state — pro-union and antiabortion — that began breaking away from Democrats in 2008. In Mississippi's legislative races, they won their sought-after supermajority.
Even in Kentucky, the site of their biggest black eye, Republicans continued converting ancestral Democrats who had long ago rejected the national party but continued to vote for their more conservative local candidates. As expected, Daniel Cameron broke a decades-long Democratic streak to become the state's first black attorney general, and a potential successor to Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2026. He did so by winning all but seven counties, winning nearly every part of the state that had supported Donald Trump for president; just four years earlier, Attorney General Andy Beshear had won that office by holding most of the old Democratic east.
Suburban America is getting bluer almost everywhere. Let's start with Kentucky. Beshear, of course, is likely to be sworn in as governor next month after edging unpopular Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. (Beshear's margin of victory is about double his 2015 margin in the attorney general race.) He actually lost some parts of the commonwealth that he'd held in 2015 — Pike County, for example, and most of the deeply red 1st Congressional District.
He probably won, and with more votes than any Kentucky governor in history, because the state's suburbs behaved more like suburbs in bluer states. Beshear shot away at the traditional Republican vote in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, on the outskirts of Cincinnati. In 2016, Trump won Campbell by 30 points; on Tuesday, Beshear won it by six points. In Fayette County, where the city of Lexington makes up one of Kentucky's only Democratic vote sinks, Republicans did not think a Democrat could improve on 2018 congressional candidate Amy McGrath. She won the county by 24,801 votes; Beshear won it by 36,482. The gap between Beshear's vote and McGrath was nearly three times larger than Beshear's statewide margin Tuesday. And Beshear's win mattered more than McGrath's would have, as the new governor can restore voting rights to former felons with the stroke of a pen.
The suburban trend rolled through nearly every election, whether Democrats won or lost. In Mississippi, Hood became the first Democrat since 1987 to win Madison County, which for decades was a suburban Republican stronghold. Democrats picked up a seat in the Memphis suburbs (they stretch into Mississippi) with a focused campaign to raise black turnout. In Texas, the party led the six-candidate field for a state legislative seat in Fort Bend County, outside Houston. In Pennsylvania, Democrats effectively wiped out Republicans in the collar counties around Philadelphia; in Delaware County, it was the first loss of control for Republicans since Abraham Lincoln was president.
The exceptions to the trend were telling. In New Jersey, Republicans chipped at the Democratic legislative majority; in New York, they had a decent night in Long Island's local races. The shorthand here is that in blue states, where Democrats run everything and have been taxing suburbanites to pay for services, the suburbs can hold in any negative feelings about Trump and vote their pocketbooks. In Kentucky, where voting for Bevin meant four more years of infighting between legislators and teachers, a Democratic vote was much more attractive.
The left keeps marching through cities (except Seattle, sort of). It's one of the great paradoxes of Trump-era politics: Republicans brand moderate Democrats as “socialists,” while in cities the GOP is too weak to defeat actual socialists. In Philadelphia, the Working Families Party and Democratic Socialists of America took advantage of a city law that holds two city council seats for “independents” and elected Kendra Brooks, a leftist organizer, over a Republican-aligned candidate. In Charlottesville, a DSA candidate joined the city council — closer to Washington, DSA-affiliated Del. Lee Carter in Virginia held on for a second term.
On Tuesday night, it looked like Seattle would be an exception to the trend, as heavy spending by Amazon seemed to benefit more business-friendly challengers to left-wing city councilors. But as the count has rolled on, only socialist Kshama Sawant is in real danger of losing. Rural America has gotten redder, suburban America has gotten blue, and urban America has gotten so blue that it has turned, in some places, another shade of red. For a real left-wing urban setback, you had to look to Albuquerque, where a public campaign financing reform measure failed by two points.
The irony is that left-wing reforms are so popular in cities that the most left-wing candidates might not benefit. In San Francisco, Chesa Boudin's district attorney candidacy would have won outright in a first-past-the-post system, where candidates don't need majorities. The city's recently enacted ranked-choice voting pushed him into a dead heat that has not been resolved. Across the continent, in New York, voters approved a similar ranked-choice measure by a landslide.
Republicans hoped a clear win would build their confidence. They didn't get one.
“Pennsylvania suburbs revolt against Trump,” by Holly Otterbein
Inside the gallop away from the GOP in southeast Pennsylvania.
“Democrats flip Virginia Senate and House, taking control of state government for the first time in a generation,” by Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella
The full shape of how Virginia changed this week.
“Warren’s rivals have tried for years to brand her as an elitist,” by Alex Thompson
An attack with a long and uneven history.
What the off-off-year races meant for Congress.
The very strange story of a donor competition that never delivered.
“Is Elizabeth Warren ‘angry’ and antagonistic? Or are rivals dabbling in gendered criticism?” by Matt Viser and Annie Linskey
The “likability” debate is reborn.
DEMS IN DISARRAY
The newest phase of a big Democratic fight began Tuesday night, on the 17th floor of Pittsburgh’s Omni William Penn Hotel. Joe Biden was holding a fundraiser whose co-hosts had paid $15,000 and became among the first to hear him attack the “elitism” of his unnamed “my way or the highway attitude” opponents.
It was the first time Biden said something that had just appeared on Medium: Elizabeth Warren represented an elite that most Democrats couldn’t identify with. “It’s condescending to the millions of Democrats who have a different view,” Biden wrote, a formulation he’d largely repeat in Pittsburgh. “It’s representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share: ‘We know best; you know nothing.’ ”
Ever since last Friday, when Warren responded to the Biden campaign's attacks on her Medicare-for-all white paper, the former vice president has been portraying the senator from Massachusetts as a know-it-all. There are a few different points of attack here, all of which got more enticing when Warren said Democrats opposed to Medicare-for-all were running in “the wrong presidential primary.” Biden could have gone after Warren's corporate legal advice, or how she joined the party in only 1996. So far he has ignored that first issue, made a few jabs at the second, and dug in on “elitism.”
“It was basically, if you don't agree with Elizabeth Warren, you must somehow be not a Democrat,” Biden groused in a Wednesday interview with SiriusXM. “You must somehow be corrupt. You must not be as smart as she. I mean, it's just something that we don't do in our party. It's not who we are. Ordinary, middle-class, hard-working folks are as smart as anybody else at being able to detect what's in their interest.”
Biden is not the only Democrat who has accused Warren of know-it-all-ism. That was the tenor of Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota's responses to Warren in the last debate — "Your idea is not the only idea." Two weeks ago, when told that Warren was coming up with ways to pay for Medicare-for-all, Sen. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado said she was disconnected from heartland voters.
“If we're the party of East Coast elites and West Coast elites, if we're putting policy proposals together in a test tube in Washington, D.C., or Cambridge or wherever these policies were generated, we're going to lose again to Donald Trump,” Bennet said.
Warren has been down this road before. In her 2012 Senate race, Republican Scott Brown made hay of both Warren's corporate work and her association with Harvard, turning the term “professor” into a pejorative. He was on solid ground; according to the 2012 exit poll, voters viewed Brown more favorably than Warren. And in 2017, when Republicans were trying to soften Warren up ahead of a potential White House bid, a super PAC funded by the Mercer family ran radio ads warning voters that Warren was not like them.
“She was paid a salary of nearly $350,000, for teaching a few hours of classes each week,” said the spots from Massachusetts First. “The real irony? While Warren was raking in hundreds of thousands each year, many of her students were taking on massive debt to listen to Warren lecture them on bankruptcy.”
None of that clicked in her Senate race, though there has always been a tell with Warren: She does not talk much about Harvard, or even Massachusetts. In her stump speech, she describes her law career as “teaching” and “trading little kids for big kids.” Warren’s campaign would not respond on the record to questions about the attack, keeping up its general approach to negative campaign stories. But since Biden made his remarks, Warren’s Twitter account has, pointedly, been putting out (or recycling) content about her life before politics: her degrees from public universities, her family's financial troubles, and so on.
Few of Warren's opponents have the same working-class branding as Brown, even if that was always a little misleading (A truck he drove to campaign events was purchased to transport his daughter's horse.) Bennet went to Wesleyan, then Yale's law school; Klobuchar got her undergraduate degree from Yale; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock got his law degree from Columbia; and Pete Buttigieg, most famously, got a Rhodes scholarship after finishing up his Harvard degree in history and literature. (Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Rhodes scholar with a law degree from Yale, has talked less about that part of his résumé than the others.)
Biden, by contrast, has spent his entire career talking about a working-class upbringing, decades after he was one of the most powerful men in the U.S. Senate; as he pointed out, he had little personal wealth when he got there. This particular attack also folds in a few topics Biden likes to emphasize, such as the way Medicare-for-all would replace plans won by labor unions and the support he gets from nonwhite and white working-class voters.
“I think we’re the only ones who don’t have to win Iowa, honestly,” Biden's campaign manager told the Wall Street Journal this week, “because our strength is the fact that we have a broad and diverse coalition.”
A high-dollar fundraiser might not have been the idea venue to start attacking Biden's opponent as an elitist. But it's an attack that's been tried before, and one that's attractive to Warren's other opponents, like Sanders. His campaign also cites his less-educated coalition as a reason he's more electable, and why Warren resembles the sort of Democratic nominees who lose. Yet Warren is just as happy for chances to reintroduce herself as she has all year: as an Oklahoman with not-too-flashy degrees who became the most influential expert in her field.
The latest on the impeachment inquiry:
- State Department official says Giuliani was engaged in a campaign ‘full of lies and incorrect information’
- Bolton willing to defy White House and testify if court clears the way, according to people familiar with his views
- Trump wanted Barr to hold news conference saying the president broke no laws in call with Ukrainian leader
- Explore key documents related to the inquiry
Andrew Yang, “A New Way Forward.” The first spot from Yang's new ad team, which previously worked with Bernie Sanders, looks like the kind of comprehensive meet-the-candidate that Sanders debuted with in 2015. (This is actually Yang's second spot.) One thing it includes that Sanders never could: an image of him meeting with a friendly Barack Obama, back when Yang ran Venture for America. It calls him the “son of immigrants who came here seeking the American Dream” and presents him as a non-politician who supports a new economy and Medicare-for-all. That comes as Yang has clarified that he does not support the entirety of the Senate's Medicare-for-all legislation.
Steve Bullock, “Only.” The Montana governor has gone on the air in Iowa with two spots; one straight-to-camera testimony from state Attorney General Tom Miller and one that introduces him through the voices of TV commentators reciting his record of red-state wins. It's a pure electability pitch, ending with a pledge to “beat Trump and be a president for all of America.”
2020 Iowa caucuses (Quinnipiac, 698 likely caucusgoers)
Elizabeth Warren — 20%
Pete Buttigieg — 19%
Bernie Sanders — 17%
Joe Biden — 15%
Amy Klobuchar — 5%
Kamala D. Harris — 4%
Tulsi Gabbard — 3%
Andrew Yang — 3%
Tom Steyer — 3%
Cory Booker — 1%
Julián Castro — 1%
Michael F. Bennet — 1%
Steve Bullock — 1%
Quinnipiac's first jump into the Iowa pool finds a similar race to the one the New York Times-Siena poll found Monday: a four-way battle for first place, with each of those candidates in a position to get delegates. (For context, no more than three candidates have ever cracked 15 percent in a single Iowa caucus night.) As in other polls, Biden is running behind his numbers with voters who consider him the most electable Democrat. What stands out is that only 21 percent of Iowa caucusgoers believe Biden is most electable; just as many believe that Warren or Buttigieg is, something slightly out of line with early polling.
Sanders both underperforms on that number and is viewed as the most honest candidate by Iowans who aren't supporting him. He has also boosted, in one way, by Buttigieg's rise: More than one-third of voters who support the Indiana mayor say Warren is their second-choice candidate, to just 7 percent who pick Sanders. The senator from Vermont has struggled to put most of his 2016 coalition together again but believes he can benefit if educated white voters drift from Warren.
Do you have a favorable/unfavorable opinion of this candidate? (Monmouth, 835 registered voters)
Elizabeth Warren — 42/44
Joe Biden — 43/50
Donald Trump — 44/54
Bernie Sanders — 41/54
Pete Buttigieg — 27/34
Kamala D. Harris — 27/46
There have been years when voters viewed both parties' nominees favorably, like 2008. There was one year, 2016, when both nominees broke their parties' records for unpopularity. At the moment, 2020 is cruising between those two extremes. Only one Democrat, Harris, does markedly worse here than Clinton's 12-point negative rating in the last election's exit poll, with about one in five voters still not aware enough to form an opinion of her. Trump has improved on his 22-point negative rating but remains the most personally unpopular president to face reelection in decades.
And then there were 10. By hitting 3 percent in Quinnipiac's first poll of Iowa, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii qualified for the next Democratic debate, co-sponsored by The Washington Post and taking place in Tyler Perry's Atlanta studios. Gabbard had just a few days left to make the cutoff for the Nov. 20 debate, and while the DNC won't announce who qualified until next week, her campaign has claimed to have more than the 165,000 individual donations needed to make the stage.
How much of Gabbard's success is due to Hillary Clinton, in a podcast interview, saying that she was being “groomed” for a third-party run? Quite a bit, probably. In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls since that Oct. 21 interview, Gabbard has risen from 1.2 percent to 1.6 percent support; in Iowa, she's risen from 2 percent to 2.5 percent; in New Hampshire, she's jumped from 2 percent to 2.7 percent. Crucial to that rise has been a jump in support from Republican-leaning independents, who can vote in both of those early states as long as they don't show up with Republican registrations.
Gabbard's return to the stage could give her a mulligan, as she left the Ohio debate frustrated that she could not bait Sen. Elizabeth Warren into a trap. In the run-up, Gabbard had suggested she would attack Warren on her bona fides as a potential commander in chief. Onstage, she asked Warren whether the senator from Massachusetts would "call for an end to this regime-change war in Syria," and Warren said yes. Gabbard soon came back to Warren after arguing that her own Army National Guard service qualified her for the presidency.
“I'd like to ask our other candidates this question,” Gabbard said. “I'd like to start with Senator Warren, what her experience and background is to serve as commander in chief.”
Unfortunately, Gabbard said that right before the commercial break, and was cut off. For the next week, her campaign suggested that moderators, who had just initiated a lengthy round of candidate attacks on Warren over Medicare-for-all's cost estimates, were trying to protect Warren. Gabbard's willingness to go negative had worried some Democrats about what she'd do on a debate stage. It's less clear now how she'd attack Warren, though the senator was one of very few Democrats who did not really engage in the Clinton-Gabbard spat, after Gabbard insisted that Clinton had called her a traitor.
Mike Bloomberg, who ruled out a presidential bid eight months ago, may be reversing course: He is filing as a candidate in Alabama's presidential primary, just ahead of the Friday, Nov. 8, deadline.
“In 2018 he spent more than $100 million to help elect Democrats to ensure that Congress began to hold the president accountable,” Bloomberg spokesman Howard Wolfson told The Post's Matt Viser. “This year he helped Democrats win control of both houses of the Virginia legislature. We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated — but Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that.”
If Bloomberg runs, he'll bring an unlimited campaign war chest to a crowded primary, one where both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed vast new taxes on wealth — and where Sanders has said that “billionaires should not exist.” Before he decided earlier this year not to run, Bloomberg told The Post, in New Hampshire, that Warren's wealth tax was the sort of policy that had brought down socialist countries such as Venezuela. A surprise bid for the presidency could immediately transform the Democrats' conversation, even though public polling conducted before Bloomberg's decision not to run found him largely unpopular with Democratic voters.
Bernie Sanders. He issued a new comprehensive immigration plan that would wipe out most of the enforcement mechanisms created since 9/11 — breaking up Immigration and Customs Enforcement, creating fair labor standards for undocumented workers, and giving everyone in the country a path to citizenship.
Elizabeth Warren. She won the endorsement of Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, the fifth member of the state's House delegation to support her. (Four remain neutral; one of them, Seth Moulton, briefly ran for president against Warren.)
Tulsi Gabbard. She appeared in a contentious interview on “The View,” telling co-host Joy Behar that it was offensive for anyone to suggest she was being groomed as a spoiler candidate. “You are implying that I am too stupid and too naive and lack the intelligence to know what I am doing,” she said. “And that is extremely offensive to me and to every woman of color.”
Tom Steyer. One of his top Iowa advisers offered campaign cash to Tom Courtney, a candidate for state Senate, who told the Associated Press that it was described as the kind of help Steyer had been offering to Democrats who support his bid. Steyer quickly apologized.
Steve Bullock. Right before Steyer apologized, Bullock denounced him: “First he buys his way onto the debate stage, and now Tom Steyer’s trying to buy endorsements. These repeated efforts to undermine our democratic process are unacceptable.”
Kamala Harris. She picked up support from Higher Heights, an organization created to elect more black women.
Julián Castro. In an interview with “The Daily Show,” he attacked Pete Buttigieg for suggesting that the two of them could go to South Bend to seek answers on urban renewal. “We could almost fit South Bend in our Alamodome,” said Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio.
Pete Buttigieg. He rolled out a group of Iowa endorsements after his bus tour, among them county leaders and local party officials; candidates who trail in the polls, such as Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, continue to lead with state legislators. And in an interview on his campaign bus, Buttigieg said he would release tax returns from the years he worked as a McKinsey consultant, before the Iowa caucuses.
Michael Bennet. He named Joan Bolin Betts, a veteran of the state's Treasury Department, as his central Iowa director.
Since Tuesday night, when Democrats appeared to have won back the governor's mansion in Kentucky, they've been gripped by a new panic: What if the state's Republicans just don't let them win?
Andy Beshear's margin, pending next week's re-canvass of the state, was small but bigger than anything that has been overturned in a modern recount. After every precinct finished its initial count, Beshear led by 5,086 votes out of 1,443,048 cast. Proportionately, that's about the size of last year's Republican margin in Florida's tight race for governor; it's about twice as large as the margin by which Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016. In Kentucky's own terms, it wasn't even the closest election of the decade. Four years ago Matt Bevin won the GOP nomination for this job by 83 votes, and Beshear won the tight race for attorney general by just 2,194 votes.
Neither of those races was called into question once the votes were canvassed. But on Tuesday, state Senate President Robert Stivers told the Courier-Journal that he believed a Libertarian candidate (who had run expressly to spoil things for Bevin) took votes that would have otherwise gone to the governor. And on Wednesday night, Bevin held a news conference at which he took no questions and referred cryptically to “thousands of absentee ballots that were illegally counted” and “machines that didn't work properly” — problems his campaign was not talking much about on Election Day.
What could happen? The law is clear but relatively untested: “Contested elections for Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be determined by both Houses of the General Assembly, according to such regulations as may be established by law.” Not since 1899, when a winning candidate was denied the office, installed after a protest and assassinated, has the legislature accepted a contest to one of these elections. That leaves open the remote, but unlikely, possibility of Bevin's party judging that the close election was too flawed for a winner to be known and seat Bevin instead of Beshear.
As Rick Hasen explains in Slate, doing this would violate legal precedents, as it would be effectively changing the rules under which the election took place. And Bevin is a long way from providing evidence for anyone to doubt the result: Even a poll of “thousands” of questionable absentee votes would need to have spotted Beshear more than 5,000 votes, in an election where the governor ran far behind the rest of his ticket. Republicans won every other statewide race.
... six days until the cutoff for the fifth Democratic debate
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... 88 days until the Iowa caucuses
... 96 days until the New Hampshire primary