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Here's what the GOP's rough election night in Virginia and Kentucky means for 2020

Image: Voters cast ballots at an elementary school in Midlothian, Va., on N
Voters cast ballots at an elementary school in Midlothian, Va., on Nov. 5, 2019. Copyright Matt McClain The Washington Post via Getty Images
Copyright Matt McClain The Washington Post via Getty Images
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — Yesterday, we wrote that Democrats would have a good or even a great night if they flipped both legislative chambers in Virginia and won Kentucky's gubernatorial contest.

And it looks like they had a good or even a great night.

Democrat Andy Beshear is the apparent winner in Kentucky, leading Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin by about 5,150 votes with 99 percent reporting, per NBC News. (Bevin has not conceded, saying the race is too close to call and citing unnamed "irregularities.")

And Democrats flipped both the House of Delegates and the state Senate in Virginia, giving the party full control of both legislative chambers and the governors' mansion for the first time in more than two decades.

The bright spot for Republicans: GOP Lt. Gov. Tate Reevesis the apparent winner of the governor's race in Mississippi, leading Democrat Jim Hood by more than five points in a state Trump won by nearly 18 points.

If Bevin's surprising victory in 2015 was a canary in the coal mine for 2016 (that a highly unpopular figure could win a political upset fueled by rural voters), is his defeat a canary in the coal mine for 2020 (that a highly unpopular politician might have a difficult time winning re-election)?

After all, Bevin has been one of the least popular governors in the country. As recently as last month, a Morning Consult poll found him at 34% approval/53% disapproval — the second worst gubernatorial rating nationwide.

Also, for all the talk that impeachment would galvanize Republican voters, that didn't necessarily play out in Kentucky's gubernatorial race.

(Another factoid that will make Democrats smile today: In each of the last four off-year gubernatorial elections in Kentucky, the party that won went on to win the presidential race nationwide one year later: Republican Ernie Fletcher won in 2003, Democrat Steve Beshear won in 2007 and again in 2011, and Republican Matt Bevin won in 2015.)

Still, Democrats shouldn't get too carried away with the Kentucky results last night.

Asthe Cook Political Report's Jennifer Duffy wrote on Twitterbefore the race was called: "KY just elected the first Republican attorney general since 1948 and the first African-American attorney general in the state's history. This is one piece of evidence that if Bevin loses, it's about Bevin and not some sign that there are bigger factors at work."

(If you're a Republican senator, are you taking some solace this morning in the fact that other Republicans who weren't styled after Trump as much as Bevin did just fine last night?)

All of that said, Tuesday was a rough night for the GOP. And a good or even great night for the Dems.

One other message for Democrats out of the Kentucky results

The nationalized Kentucky race often felt like it was all about Trump — but don't lose sight of one of Beshear's most important strategies, either: Staunchly defending Obamacare.

While Beshear's apparent win has Democrats cheering, it also could be a reminder to the party's Medicare for All backers that a more moderate health care stance is what pulled a Democrat over the edge in a red state last night.

In other words: you can take defending Obamacare anywhere in the country and win. But you can't do the same with Medicare for All.

Data Download: The number of the day is ... zero


That's the number of Republicans who will represent Virginia's Fairfax County in 2020 at either the state or congressional level, Dave Wasserman notes.


It's a stunning turnaround for Fairfax — an affluent and increasingly diverse county just outside of Washington, D.C. Republican presidential candidates regularly won the county from 1968 until 2004.

And it's yet another sign of GOP weakness in fast-growing suburbs, where animosity toward Trump has run up the Democratic score in the 2018 and now the 2019 elections.

(By the way, don't ignore the Democratic downballot victories in Pennsylvania last night, either.)

Impeachment inquiry update: Sondland changes his story

Well, this seems like a significant ... refreshment.

In an "supplemental declaration" provided to House investigators on Monday and released yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said that other witnesses's testimony have now "refreshed [his] recollection" about conversations involving aid to Ukraine.


The key excerpt: "I now recall speaking individually with [top adviser to the Ukrainian president] Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."

Three things strike us about this new development:

  1. This makes Sondland's admission the fourth confirmation of a quid pro quo involving aid to Ukraine, adding to the Kurt Volker text messages, Bill Taylor's testimony, and Tim Morrison's testimony.
  2. While the White House is already dismissing the importance of Sondland's new statement — the president will have a hard time sticking him with the "Never Trumper" label he's given other witnesses. Sondland is an Oregon hotelier who gave $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee before becoming a diplomat. And just last month, Trump called him"a really good man and great American."
  3. Despite Republican complaints about the Democrats' impeachment interview process, doesn't Sondland's "supplemental declaration" give some fuel to Democrats' argument that each witness's testimony should be largely kept under wraps until the investigation is more complete?

After all, Sondland just did what Democrats have said they feared from too much public disclosure — adapting his testimony to match what others have already told investigators.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Biden hits back after Warren's 'wrong primary' jab

Joe Biden is out with a forceful response to Elizabeth Warren's jab last week that he's "running in the wrong primary," NBC's Mike Memoli reports.

Without specifically naming Warren — but still directly referencing the comment — Biden writes in a Medium post that her critique is "condescending" and reflective of an "angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics."


More, from the post: "Some call it the "my way or the highway" approach to politics. But it's worse than that. It's condescending to the millions of Democrats who have a different view.

It's representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share: 'We know best; you know nothing'. 'If you were only as smart as I am you would agree with me.'"

On the campaign trail today

Michael Bennet and Amy Klobuchar are both set to file for the New Hampshire primary... Andrew Yang is also in the Granite State... Tom Steyer is in Milwaukee... and Donald Trump holds an evening rally in Louisiana in advance of next week's gubernatorial runoff.

Dispatches from NBC's embeds

In New Hampshire, NBC's Amanda Golden and Julia Jester report that Julián Castro will not be filing for the primary in person, as is tradition. This comes amid Castro's campaign laying off their staff in New Hampshire. Kamala Harris also had a surrogate file in her place after laying off much of her New Hampshire staff.

The Lid: Poll position

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we previewed the big contests in Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia.


ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

The Washington Post findsthat some of Trump's properties are facing significant financial declines.

Trump accuser Summer Zervos saysthat newly unsealed phone records corroborate parts of her story.

The Republican National Committeepaid to generate phone calls to congressional offices in the effort both to shape public opinion about impeachment and to jam up the lines, the New York Times reports.

Courtney Kube got an up-close lookat the troops who are moving into northern Syria to help guard oil fields.

Trump Agenda: Turkey Day deadline

The Justice Department wants to finish its report on the Russia probe before Thanksgiving.


What would the role of Chief Justice John Roberts be in an impeachment trial?

Lindsey Graham says he won't readthe most recently released testimony in the impeachment probe.

Many of Rand Paul's colleagues aren't happy with his push to unmask the whistleblower.

2020: Meet Virginia

Here's what Virginia Democrats say they'll do now that they have full control of state government.

Trump's suburban slide is real, the AP writes.


Jon Allen looks at the GOP's "chaos theory"to beat impeachment.

Pete Buttigieg is getting some backup from his old McKinsey colleagues.

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