Harvard Political Scientist Says State Elections Show Trump Is Digging a 'Deep, Deep Hole for GOP'

As Democrats celebrated their victories from Tuesday's elections, Harvard professor and political scientist Ryan Enos credited people rejecting President Donald Trump for the Democrats' wins in Kentucky and Virginia.

"You can spin it however you want, but without Trump, it is very hard to imagine the Democrats winning Kentucky and, probably, Virginia," Enos posted on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Democrats flipped Kentucky's gubernatorial office and won enough seats in Virginia's House of Delegates and Senate to turn the Legislature from red to blue. While some said the victories were due to appealing Democratic policies and voter outreach, Enos claimed it was Trump that made them possible.

Trump, Enos wrote on Twitter, was "digging a deep, deep hole for the GOP."

However, not everyone was as convinced as Enos that Trump deserved credit for the Democrats taking control of Virginia's General Assembly and the governor's office in Kentucky. Some pointed to the states' past political leanings as proof it wasn't solely Trump that caused people to vote Democratic. Others claimed that without Trump's support, Republican Governor Matt Bevin's loss would have been worse in Kentucky.

donald trump election kentucky virginia
Donald Trump talks to journalists while departing the White House on Monday. After Tuesday's elections, some said the Democrats were able to win because voters rejected the president's policies. Getty/Chip Somodevilla

Although Kentucky is politically a red state, the Bluegrass State has had a mix of Democrat and Republican governors throughout its history. For 32 years, from 1971 until 2003, it had a Democratic governor. Then, from 1995 until 2019, each governor was succeeded by a governor of a different political party, according to the National Governors Association.

So it's not incomprehensible that Democrat Andy Beshear was able to defeat Bevin, whom Trump endorsed and praised during a Monday night rally in Kentucky. Also, Tuesday's race was a close one, with Beshear declaring victory by less than a half a percentage point and Bevin refusing to concede.

University of Alabama law professor Joyce Alene acknowledged that you shouldn't "read too much into the tea leaves" with a year to go until Election Day. However, she wrote on Twitter it likely wasn't a good sign that even after Trump appealed to his base in Kentucky on Monday night he still couldn't "pull out a win for his guy."

In Virginia, though, the Democrats' seizure of the Legislature was an even bigger turn of events. Virginia is often considered a swing state, but NPR reported that Tuesday's election showed it's becoming more firmly Democratic. This is the first time in nearly 25 years that Democrats have gained control of both the House of Delegates and the Senate. With a Democratic governor, as well, it could mean increased gun control measures, Medicaid expansion and the possible ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but the measure failed to get approval from 38 states before the 1982 deadline. Nevada and Illinois ratified it after the deadline, bringing the number of approving states to 37, along with uncertainty over the number of states still required. Still, Virginia legislators pushed for Old Dominion to become the 38th state, but their efforts were squelched in a Senate committee when Republican legislators voted against it. Now that Democrats control both chambers, some say it's only a matter of time before the ERA is added to the Constitution.

The Democrats' takeover of Virginia's General Assembly could also have implications for the 2020 election and Trump's re-election bid. NPR reported that Democrats in the state will now be able to determine the drawing of congressional and legislative district lines.

Some claimed the Democratic victories in the state contests were a referendum on Trump, while the president championed the Republicans who won their races. Both the president and Democrats said Tuesday's results were indicative of what voters will see in the 2020 elections.

Harvard Political Scientist Says State Elections Show Trump Is Digging a 'Deep, Deep Hole for GOP' | U.S.