'This is false': Conservative writer dismantles claim Trump helped Republicans in 2016 — and explains why he'll be an even bigger liability in 2020
On November 5, Democrats achieved majorities in both houses of the Virginia state legislature and increased their prominence in the Philadelphia suburbs. But the most shocking political upset of November 5 occurred when, in deep red Kentucky, centrist Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin — who Trump aggressively campaigned for. GOP strategists have been taking comfort in the fact that although Bevin lost, Republicans won a long list of down-ballot races in Kentucky. But according to Last, the election results in Kentucky shouldn’t be viewed as a win for Trumpism.
“Matt Bevin was a uniquely unpopular figure in Kentucky politics, with a hardcore base of supporters who loved him for what he was, but a larger, harder-core base of voters who very much did not like him,” Last explains. “Does that sound like anyone else you know?”
The “anyone else” Last is referring to is, of course, Trump.
“The lesson of Matt Bevin is precisely the opposite of what Trumpy Republicans think it is,” Last stresses. “The real lesson is that there are swing voters and ticket splitters who will still be willing to vote for down-ballot Republicans provided there’s enough space between these candidates and the tremendously unpopular Republican at the top of the ticket.”
Looking back on the 2016 election, Last is critical of the claim that Trump helped down-ballot Republicans in U.S. Senate races.
“There’s this weird myth that Donald Trump helped Republicans in 2016,” Last argues. “This is false. Trump ran behind most state-level Republicans. In Alabama, for instance, Trump ran -3 points behind Richard Shelby’s Senate reelect campaign. He ran -5 points behind John McCain in Arizona, -3 points behind Marco Rubio in Florida, -9 points behind Chuck Grassley in Iowa.”
Last contends that in Kentucky on November 5, the most overtly Trumpian candidate lost — Bevin — while the down-ballot Republicans who won had more distance from Trump. And the lesson for Republicans, according to Last, is that they need to “cut the millstone loose.”:
“Trump didn’t add votes to their coalitions,” Last says of Kentucky’s election results. “He subtracted them.”