Election Day After-Math

Beshear greets voters

So now, on Wednesday, what can we glean from Steve Beshear’s convincing triumph over Ernie Fletcher? Beshear won with 59% of the vote, compared to Fletcher’s 41%, and a lot of Beshear’s votes came from some unexpected places (from the Courier-Journal):

Beshear won traditionally Democratic counties that he was supposed to win and made it close in those where Republicans have typically run well. In Boone County, for example, where 63 percent of the voters are Republican, Fletcher won by less than 2 percentage points, and he won only by a small margin in heavily Republican Oldham County.

In all, Beshear carried 92 of the state’s 120 counties. Four years ago, by contrast, Fletcher won 86 counties.

Most of the counties Fletcher carried this year were in south-central Kentucky. He even struggled in Republican-performing Northern Kentucky, where he won only Boone County.

Beshear carried Eastern Kentucky, which normally votes Democratic, and Western Kentucky, which has been trending Republican in recent years.

In Jefferson County, where Fletcher lost by just 5,536 votes in 2003, Beshear won by roughly 67,000 votes.

While the Courier only mentions it in passing, Fletcher’s turnaround in the Northern Kentucky counties is what is being called over at the Bluegrass Report, the “Biggest Story of the Night.” BR states:

When taken as a whole, Beshear defeated Fletcher in the three Northern counties by a 38,578 to 33,480 vote margin or a whopping 53.5% to 46.5% spread. He only lost Boone County by 300 votes. Incredible. Especially considering that Fletcher won these counties in 2003 by 26, 30 and 44 points, respectively.

Aside from the remarkable performance by a Democrat in Northern Kentucky, it’s even more breathtaking when one considers how much Governor Fletcher (R) apparently did for those counties over the past four years.

Also in the C-J‘s lead story are a number of shall we say revealing quotes from state Republican leaders. Revealing in the sense that they show an incredible amount of disarray and denial from the party once known — pre-Rove resignation — for its discipline:

Republican strategist Ted Jackson, who supported Northup in the primary, said last night that Fletcher should not have sought re-election because he never stood a chance.

“The guy could not be re-elected. It was not a close call,” said Jackson, who added that the pardons were something the electorate could not forgive. “Ronald Reagan could not have pardoned his entire administration … and be re-elected.”

But Larry Forgy, the 1995 Republican gubernatorial nominee, blamed Northup, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, who chose not to run again with Fletcher, for the loss.

“It is the result of the primary. We spent $5 million among Republicans fighting over almost nothing except the desire of three or four people in Louisville and party headquarters — including Sen. McConnell, including Steve Pence, Anne Northup and others — to essentially run this man out of office.”

State Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said Fletcher lost because he failed to adequately explain the merit hiring scandal to voters. And he said the Bluegrass Freedom Fund, a political committee that spent millions of dollars on anti-Fletcher ads, prevented Beshear from having to sling mud.

“The biggest problem was the governor failed to convince people about what happened as far as the merit hiring situation,” Williams said. “When the record is examined, it will show Gov. Fletcher has been one of the more effective governors in the history of Kentucky. But people won’t find that out until the election is over, unfortunately.”

McConnell, the Senate minority leader who refused to even discuss the governor during much of Fletcher’s term, issued a statement of support yesterday.

“Ernie Fletcher ran a hard-fought campaign that showed a deep commitment to the commonwealth and to the principles that propelled him into office four years ago,” he said.

Mike Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee and an Inez banker, said in a statement that Fletcher’s loss doesn’t reflect a change in momentum that has seen Republicans make great strides in the last decade.

“Democrats targeted Ernie Fletcher from day one, but even with the unique circumstances of the governor’s race, they could not stand in the way of the Republican Party’s fundamental strength in the state,” he said.

1. As noted at BR, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell’s statement, especially the part about Fletcher earning “our respect,” is pure lunacy.

2. Who is Mike Duncan trying to kid? The only statewide Republican wins were for Trey Grayson — who supposedly was once a Democrat and who was endorsed by a number of Democrats and left-leaning publications — and Richie Farmer, who could probably run on the Socialist Party ticket (is there a Kentucky Socialist Party?) and get elected.

3. Larry Forgy and Dave Williams sound positively, well, butthurt (as the kids say on message boards).

4. Ted Jackson is the only slightly-rational sounding quote. Until he gets to Reagan. While Ronnie did not have the chance to pardon those members of his administration involved in the Iran-Contra affair, after being elected president, George H.W. Bush did.

Regardless, yeah, Kentucky Republicans are in trouble.

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