Roberts: What the Hell Happened to Kentucky?

by | Nov 10, 2023 | Opinion

This Tuesday, Governor Andy Beshear (a tyrannical governor who was found liable in federal court for banning church, travel, and protest) won re-election in Kentucky by 5 points, defeating Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.  This election reveals many lessons conservatives must learn.

Pay Stupid Consultants, win stupid prizes

Daniel Cameron’s primary team did a terrific job at uniting the GOP, and his general election additions splintered the United base the very next day.  Hiring Terry Carmack, who was responsible for eviscerating the Tea Party in the 2010’s, was a FATAL mistake.  I warned the campaign about this in June.  I stand by this warning.  

You can’t run independent from McConnell in the primary and then replace your AWESOME primary team with McConnell’s chief of staff in the general and expect a good outcome. While some believe keeping Terry Carmack and the Mitch Machine was essential for funding in the general election, one cannot sacrifice their independence for Money from Mitch. As I will explain, Mitch McConnell’s empire is malignant to conservatives in Kentucky and across the nation. To receive such a liability for access to the war chest simply is not a worthwhile trade-off.

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Ground Game is King 

Which brings me to the next point, you need hard-working folk on the grassroots. Terry Carmack’s contempt for grassroots conservatives made itself known as Cameron’s campaign itself hardly had a door-knocking operation (thank God that changed toward the end). But that change was too little, too late.

By focusing on going to events crowded with people who were already voting for Daniel Cameron, the campaign wasted its resources and failed at persuasion and get-out-the-vote efforts.

You MUST excite the conservative base or your campaign will die

Despite Republican voter registration increasing in Kentucky since Andy Beshear’s election in 2019, Republican voter turnout (what actually wins elections) has dwindled because the Conservative Base was not excited for this race. In 2019, incumbent Governor Matt Bevin lost re-election receiving 704,754 votes to Beshear’s 709,890 votes.  

By contrast, in 2023, Beshear lost votes as he received 693,441 votes. Daniel Cameron and the GOP as a whole lost far more votes, receiving only 626,350 votes.  In other words, Matt Bevin earned more votes in 2019 than Daniel Cameron did in 2023.  If Cameron earned the votes Bevin did in 2019, he would be governor-elect.

Colorado, a purple state that re-elected their far-Left governor Jared Polis by almost 20 points, handedly defeated Jared Polis’s top priority Tuesday: an effort to repeal Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which requires all tax increases to pass a referendum. Jared Polis campaigned to repeal TABOR, but was defeated by a wider margin by which Polis won re-election (a 40-point swing) because the Colorado GOP stayed on message against this assault on taxpayers.

The Swamp is going to try to blame pro-lifers for Kentucky’s loss, but this does not conform with reality.  Even when abortion was literally on the ballot in Kentucky in 2022, the State House expanded its majority to 80 Republicans to 20 Democrats, and the historically purple 6th Congressional District of Kentucky remained red by a near-30-point margin despite only remaining red by a 3.2 point margin in 2018.  

No, Swamp Creatures, Kentucky is not a pro-abortion state.  It never will be.  Cameron’s walking back of his support for Kentucky’s pro-life law (despite his passionate defense of the law and his personal support for it) under the advice of his campaign (I can only assume it was someone in the Mitch Machine giving this advice as no one in Cameron’s primary team would ever advise him to do this) is likely why conservative Catholics in Northern Kentucky stayed home this election cycle.  

Kentucky Republicans need to be MORE conservative. As the great Savannah Maddox observed, RINOs cow-towing to the demands Leftists demoralized conservatives this November, prompting low turnout.  Will we ever learn?

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It’s time to move on from Mitch McConnell

Matt Bevin outperformed Daniel Cameron.  Bevin started his political career in a 2014 primary run against McConnell, gaining bona fides with Liberty lovers throughout the Commonwealth. In 2019, the biggest hangup Daniel Cameron had in winning his primary was his close ties with Mitch McConnell.  As AG, however, Cameron proved his independence from Mitch McConnell when he joined lawsuits to stop Andy Beshear’s lockdowns, despite McConnell voting to fund the lockdowns.

While Cameron distanced himself from McConnell as AG and in the primary, the hiring of Terry Carmack as senior advisor spelled the reincorporation of McConnell’s empire into the Governor’s Mansion, a move that disappointed conservatives and prompted blunders that harmed enthusiasm, such as Cameron’s walking back of his support for Kentucky’s pro-life law and his agreement to speak at a rally for Thomas Massie’s primary opponent.  

There are plenty of other lessons that can be taken from this election, such as the fact that Republicans need to get better at voter turnout in off-year elections, but these four lessons are a good start in analyzing the 2023 election so that conservatives can be better in 2024.

You can follow TJ Roberts on X at @realTJRoberts

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