Jim Beam column: Democrats win big elsewhere

Published 7:03 am Saturday, November 11, 2023

Democrats, like they did in the 2022 midterm elections, scored some major election victories Tuesday, but don’t expect any major changes in this part of the country. As The Associated Press said, “It was a good night for Democrats, but it could only go so far.”

The news cooperative was talking about political events in Mississippi. Democrat Brandon Presley, best known as Elvis Presley’s second cousin, lost the governor’s race. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves won re-election with 51.6% of the vote.

OK, this year’s Democratic successes:

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The AP said the off-year elections showed more evidence that Democrats can win races centered on the national debate over abortion. Again, that isn’t the case in this part of the country.

The Tuesday evidence on abortion was the fact abortion rights supporters won an Ohio ballot measure. They approved a constitutional amendment that ensures access to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care.

Ohio became the seventh state where voters decided to protect abortion access after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade last year.

In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear won re-election in what The AP called a “beet-red” state, one that former President Donald Trump had won by 26 percentage points. Beshear criticized the abortion views of his Republican challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

One of Beshear’s ads featured a woman who miscarried after being raped by her stepfather at age 12 who expressed disbelief at Cameron’s opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest.

Louisiana’s Republican legislators rejected legislation at their last session that would have added exceptions in cases of rape and incest to what The AP called “one of the strictest abortion bans in the country.”

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas in his syndicated column said, “USA Today has reported that according to the Guttmacher Institute, ‘just 1% of women obtain an abortion because they became pregnant through rape, and less than 0.5% do so because of incest’.”

On another issue, Kentucky Gov. Beshear had some good advice about campaigns. He said his victory “sends a loud, clear message — a message that candidates should run for something and not against someone. That a candidate should show vision and not sow division. And a clear statement that anger politics should end here and right now.”

I know a number of Louisiana candidates who could benefit from that kind of advice, but they prefer to, as Beshear said, “sow division.”

Beshear also benefited from his efforts to get a new Ohio River bridge that will connect Kentucky and Ohio without tolls. He got it thanks to massive infusions of infrastructure money pumped into Kentucky from Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Record-high economic development growth and record-low unemployment rates helped Beshear’s campaign. Voters also liked the way he handled multiple disasters, from tornadoes and floods to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. John Bel  Edwards established the same kind of economic development and low-unemployment record for Louisiana. He also handled disasters and the pandemic extremely well but got only constant criticism from many Republican officials.

Democrats won another victory when Dan McCaffery won an open seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court after positioning himself as a defender of abortion rights.

And in Virginia, Democrats held the state Senate and flipped control of the Virginia House of Delegates from the GOP. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who had been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate at some point, is serving a single-term limit, which The AP said makes his political future even more of a question.

Despite their Tuesday victories, CNN said, “A big night for Democrats Tuesday in state races only highlighted the struggle Joe Biden faces in 2024 following polls suggesting he’s far less popular than his party.

“The new surveys are again casting doubt on the rationale of a second term for Biden, who turns 81 later this month and is losing support from critical younger and minority voters even as Democrats running in 2023 elections hit on issues that resonate.”

Politico said Trump is leading Biden in five battleground states “as the president’s numbers remain underwater,” according to polling data from the New York Times and Siena College. Biden is trailing Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, but leads in Wisconsin.

Democrats may still be celebrating Tuesday’s victories, but their presidential hopes have to be fading some.