What can be said about 2023 interim elections?
Nothing gets the political spin machines rotating faster than the interpretation of election results – and their value as indicators of future outcomes. A close second would be polling results.
So … what can we divine from the results of the November 7 election? Not much. Of course, there will be partisan interpretations, with most of the media spinning with the Democrats.
Judging by media reporting there were four elections worthy of coverage — the Kentucky and Mississippi gubernatorial races, the Ohio ballot initiatives and the state assembly races in Virginia.
In Kentucky, incumbent Governor Andy Beshear defeated the state’s Attorney General Matt Cameron. It was hyped in the media as a huge victory for Democrats. CNN’s Jake Tapper emphasizes it as a “big, big win” for the donkey party – especially considering Kentucky is a “very red state” that was won by President Trump in the past.
In fact, it was the expected win of a very popular governor with a prominent name in Kentucky politics. Incumbents tend to win, especially in non-federal election years. Nothing to learn here.
In Mississippi, we had the reverse. Incumbent Republican Governor Tate Reeves defeated Democrat challenger Jim Presley. The most interesting thing about that race was the fact that Presley is the second cousin of the “King of Rock ‘n Roll.” Another incumbent wins reelection. Nothing to learn here, either.
In the Virginia general assembly races, there is a difference. Democrats succeeded in taking control of the House. They already had control of the State Senate. This was a gain for the Democrats, but can it be interpreted as an early indicator for the 2024 presidential election in the Old Dominion State. Virginia voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. The Democrat win in the Virginia House will have no impact on the expected outcome of the Virginia vote in the 2024 presidential election. It will go to the Democrats. As far as the state is concerned, it will still be a divided government. Nothing new to see here.
The passage of the abortion amendment in Ohio – a GOP-leaning state – was another setback for the Pro-Life Movement. It does not, however, indicate a shift in the trajectory of that issue. Most Americans favor legalized abortions. That is obvious. The Ohio vote was reflective of the trend we have seen since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. In that context, the outcome of the Ohio vote was expected from the onset. It was – and is – the one issue where Republicans have a disadvantage. While it is a problem for the GOP, the outcome in Ohio did not change any political equations. Nothing new here.
There was some media interpretation regarding a Trump effect. Was he a winner or loser. Actually, there did not appear to be a Trump effect. Not everything in American politics revolves around Trump – and this election was one of those things that did not.
Nothing that happened on Election Day was dramatic. There were no surprises – no shockers. In real terms, only the shift of the Virginia House changed the political power balance – and that was not something with significant impact on the national balance of power — or the prospect of things going forward. The political world of Wednesday morning was not much different than the political world of Monday evening despite all the partisan hype. Granted, there was no good news for Republicans, but not a lot of bad news either.
So, there ‘tis.