WASHINGTON — So maybe all politics isn't national after all.
That's one of the three lessons we learned from this month's gubernatorial contests in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi — where Democratic candidates won in two of the states (Kentucky and Louisiana).
Here are the takeaways:
1. All politics isn't national just yet
Earlier this month, we wrote about how nationalized our politics has become, whether it was that mostly party-line House procedural vote on impeachment, or the Trump-heavy GOP ads in these red states, or President Trump's aggressive campaigning in these races.
Our argument: American politics is increasingly breaking along attitudes about Trump.
That's definitely happening, but it doesn't explain how Democrats won in Kentucky (a state Trump carried by 30 points in 2016) and Louisiana (which Trump won by 20 points).
2. Good candidates still matter
That brings us to our second lesson: Good candidates matter - and bad ones do, too.
In Kentucky, ousted GOP Gov. Matt Bevin was highly unpopular (the other statewide Republican candidates won their contests), and Democratic challenger Andy Beshear wasn't too far outside the state's ideological mainstream, despite the GOP messaging tying him to Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandira Ocasio-Cortez.
And in Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards also wasn't too liberal for his state (he signed an anti-abortion bill into law), while GOP challenger Eddie Rispone ultimately wasn't well-known enough.
3. Republicans are getting thrashed in the suburbs
And in maybe the most applicable lesson for 2020, Republican candidates are losing the suburbs. Big time.
We saw it on Saturday in Louisiana, where Rispone lost the parishes outside of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
And we saw it earlier in Kentucky, where Bevin underperformed in the suburbs outside of Cincinnati.
"If you had any doubt that Trump was a human repellent spray for suburban voters who have a conservative disposition, Republicans getting wiped out in the suburbs of New Orleans, Louisville and Lexington should remove it," Tim Miller, a GOP strategist whose a critic of the president, told the New York Times.
Obama's warning to Democrats
Speaking of the lesson that good candidates matter, former President Barack Obama issued a warning to Democrats.
Pragmatism and improvement are more important than ideology and revolution.
"This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement," Obama said on Friday in Washington, D.C., per NBC's Alex Seitz-Wald. "They like seeing things improved. But the average American doesn't think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it's important for us not to lose sight of that."
More from Obama: "Voters, including Democrats, are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain left-leaning Twitter feeds, or the activist wing of our party. And that's not a criticism to the activist wing—their job is to poke and prod and text and inspire and motivate. But the candidate's job, whoever that ends up being, is to get elected."
Trump vs. Pompeo
Turning to the impeachment inquiry, with more public hearings on the way tomorrow, NBC's Carol E. Lee, Courtney Kube and Andrea Mitchell report that the proceedings have created a rift between President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"Trump has fumed for weeks that Pompeo is responsible for hiring State Department officials whose congressional testimony threatens to bring down his presidency, the [four current and former administration] officials said. The president confronted Pompeo about the officials — and what he believed was a lackluster effort by the secretary of state to block their testimony — during lunch at the White House on Oct. 29, those familiar with the matter said."
More: "Trump particularly blames Pompeo for tapping Ambassador Bill Taylor in June to be the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, the current and former senior administration officials said."
2020 Vision: Buttigieg's now your official frontrunner in Iowa
The numbers among likely Iowa caucus-goers: Buttigieg 25 percent, Elizabeth Warren 16 percent, Joe Biden 15 percent, Bernie Sanders 15 percent and Amy Klobuchar 6 percent. That 9-point lead for Buttigieg is outside the poll's margin of error of plus-minus 4.4 percentage points.
No one else got more than 3 percent in the poll.
A CBS/YouGov poll of registered voters in Iowa, however, showed a slightly different race in the state: Biden 22 percent, Sanders 22 percent, Buttigieg 21 percent and Warren 18 percent.
On the campaign trail today
Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Julian Castro address a Black Community Summit in Nevada… Deval Patrick, in Iowa, tours flood damage and meets with Democrats in Des Moines… Steve Bullock also is in the Hawkeye State… Pete Buttigieg holds an event in Atlanta… Amy Klobuchar also is Atlanta, where she discusses voting rights… And Julian Castro holds a town hall in Minden, Nev.
Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds
In Las Vegas yesterday, Elizabeth Warren responded to the Des Moines Register poll finding that a majority of likely Iowa caucus-goers prefer a nominee fighting for changes that have a better chance at becoming law, even if those changes aren't as big. "Look, I don't do polls. But I know what I'm fighting for and I know that we need ideas that match the problems in this country," Warren said, per NBC's Deepa Shivaram. "I believe that 2020 is our chance to do that. It's our chance to get in the fight and make this country work not just for billionaires, not just for corporate executives, but make it work for everyone. I'm not willing to give up on democracy and what we can do together."
And Biden warned Nevada voters about electing someone who can't get their legislation through Congress, or who can't beat President Trump, NBC's Marianna Sotomayor reports. "So ask yourself, you got to ask yourself who can get these things done? Who gets the idea? Who you know, there's a lot of people out there, we all have a vision for health care. We all have a plan. But who actually has done anything to get anything passed?" Biden quipped. He added, "I'm not being pejorative about my colleagues, but part of the deal here is that, you know, you actually have to get the hard work getting things passed through the Congress. Well, I'm the only one who has actually gone out and done it."
Data Download: The number of the day is … -39
Negative 39 points.
That's Michael Bloomberg's net favorable/unfavorable rating from this week's Des Moines Register/CNN poll of likely Democratic Iowa caucus-goers.
Nineteen percent view Bloomberg favorably, versus 58 percent who see him in an unfavorable light (-39).
That's compared to Buttigieg at 56, Warren at 46, Biden at 31 and Sanders at 26.
Tweet of the day
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss
The Wall Street Journal has new emails showing Gordon Sondland emailing with top administration officials about the attempt to get Ukraine to launch investigations.
The president is now blasting a Pence aide who testified that his Ukraine call was unusual and inappropriate.
North Korea says it won't hold another meeting with President Trump unless they receive "our end of the bargain."
Michael Bloomberg apologized for the controversial "stop-and-frisk" program that defined his criminal-justice record as mayor.
Trump Agenda: Vape 'em if you got 'em
It appears Trump's e-cigarette ban may be getting close to disappearing in a cloud of vapor.
China wants the U.S. to "stop flexing its muscles" in the South China Sea.
2020: (Don't) Shake It Up
The Wall Street Journal looks at why Cory Booker isn't looking to shake up his strategy as he struggles to catch fire in the presidential field.
Politico takes a look at how Elizabeth Warren's finance team is courting big donors even as she avoids the classic high-dollar fundraiser.
The trade war looms large with many of the Trump voters the president needs if he wants to win again.
Deval Patrick told MTP that he won't tell any supportive super PAC to take a hike.