Donald Trump went to Kentucky to save the re-election chances of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Trump had won the state by 30 points in 2016, Bevin lost it by a half point two weeks ago.
Trump also went to Louisiana several times to boost the gubernatorial bid of Republican Eddie Rispone. Trump had won the state by 20 points in 2016, Rispone lost it by three points over the weekend.
The results don't bode well for Trump in 2020, and they certainly aren't inspiring confidence in GOP lawmakers hoping that Trump's base could help secure Republican majorities in Congress next year. In both gubernatorial races, Trump begged his supporters at rallies to turn out for him lest a defeat make him look bad. In Louisiana, Trump even cited his Kentucky embarrassment, charging that the media had blamed him for Bevin's defeat. "So you’ve got to give me a big win, please,” Trump implored.
Drive up turnout, he did. It just didn't help Republicans in either case. In Louisiana, specifically, it spurred the wrong kind of turnout.
“What Trump did in Louisiana was increase voter participation. While he increased the pro-Trump turnout, he also increased the anti-Trump turnout. That’s kind of the lesson here,” Ron Faucheux, a New Orleans-based nonpartisan political polling analyst, told the Washington Post.
Congressional Republicans already face a number of hurdles heading into 2020. Some 20 GOP representatives have announced they will not run for re-election. A majority of Americans have sided with Democrats so far in the need to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump, though the situation remains fluid. Senate Democrats are also outraising their GOP counterparts in competitive races, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
In the 14 races deemed competitive1 by election forecasters at Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report for which we have FEC filings,2 Democrats outraised Republicans by $65.5 million to $51.4 million in total contributions through the third quarter of 2019.3
“Where’s the good news for Republicans?” Simon Rosenberg, president of the liberal think tank NDN, wondered. “In 2018 and 2019, Trump had two worst-case or near-worst elections in a row; his numbers today are below where they were on Election Day 2018; incumbents are retiring in droves, making 2020 even more challenging; and Trump’s not just trailing 2020 Democrats nationally by a significant margin — he’s not clearly ahead in any important battleground state.”
The political landscape remains incredibly dynamic. Yet the takeaway for now is that Trump's political capital isn't worth nearly as much as he and Republicans had been banking on.