Now, You Have Matt Bevin - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Now, You Have Matt Bevin
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Matt Bevin, a well-spoken and uncompromising conservative businessman, challenged Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell . in the Kentucky 2014 Republican primary.

He didn’t win. He didn’t actually come close, losing an ignominious 61-39 race to the GOP’s most powerful senator. Bevin, a down-the-line conservative of the Tea Party variety, engendered all the vitriol the Republican establishment could summon; he was the poster child for the “destructive” insurgent candidate.

Interestingly, after Bevin was beaten by McConnell, he tried again — this time for governor of Kentucky. And he won in the primary.

Bevin was, of course, a figure of fun among the smart set — such a conservative rube, with his curious stories about the Constitution and 19th-century theories of governance. They laughed at the idea he could win against the modern sophisticate Jack Conway, who has had an astonishing record of “failing up” as a candidate despite losing a congressional race to Anne Northrup in 2002, a Senate race to Rand Paul . in 2010, and Bevin in this year’s gubernatorial race.

The polls suggested a Bevin victory was, in the immortal words of Dr. John, unpossible. The Real Clear Politics average of polls rolling into Election Day had the modern sophisticate Conway leading the primordial savage Bevin by three points, 44.3-41.3. Surprising, then, that the primordial savage Bevin should have engineered an Election Night ambuscade of the modern sophisticate Conway by a 52-44 count, with four points going to a somewhat interesting third-party challenger, Drew Curtis, who founded the offbeat news aggregator Fark.com.

What to make of this, on an evening in which San Francisco’s atrocious sheriff Ross Mirkarimi of Kate Steinle murder fame was turned out of office, Virginia’s noxious Democrat governor Terry McAuliffe failed, despite millions of dollars of Mike Bloomberg’s money, to flip his state’s senate, and Houston voters gave the proverbial Bronx cheer to the notion of allowing boys in dresses to use women’s bathrooms in local high schools?

For one thing, Republicans are underpolling — and perhaps by significant numbers.

This has long been the standard, of course. Prior to the rise of Barack Obama and his suspiciously-miraculous turnout machine it was an article of faith that Republican or conservative causes and candidates would overperform at the ballot box vis-à-vis their numbers in pre-election polling. This, from a number of factors — some of those people claiming to be “likely voters” being in large measure less than honest to pollsters, the social opprobrium attached to admitting allegiance to Republican candidates (thank God for secret ballots!), and so on. In recent years, though, the standard Republican bump on Election Day has not materialized, most notably in the 2012 presidential race when Mitt Romney’s underperformance was not only surprising but dispiriting to the GOP’s voters.

That changed in 2014, as Republicans outstripped late poll numbers and won big on Election Night, and Bevin gained some 10 points between the RCP average and the final tally on Tuesday.

Which leaves the last of the races on 2015’s slim electoral slate, Louisiana’s gubernatorial contest.

The results in the October 24 “jungle primary” gave Democrat John Bel Edwards — he uses his middle name to distinguish himself from his fellow trial lawyer of eponymous fame and disgrace as a Democrat candidate — a 40 percent share of the vote against three Republicans. Edwards faces a Nov. 21 runoff against Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter ., who finished in a distant second with 23 percent of the vote. Two other Republicans — public service commissioner Scott Angelle and lieutenant governor Jay Dardenne — finished with 19 and 15 percent, respectively.

Combined, the Republican candidates totaled some 58 percent of the vote, and as such Vitter, who was long considered a walkaway favorite to win, should be in for an easy ride to victory in the runoff. But so far, to keep the governor’s race in GOP hands (it’s been occupied for eight years by 2016 presidential candidate and not-quite popular figure Bobby Jindal), Vitter is going to have to rally. A badly reputed Democrat poll from the laughable Anzalone Liszt Research gave Edwards a 52-40 head-to-head edge, and then an independent poll from JMC Analytics had the race even worse at 52-32 for Edwards.

Few political analysts in Louisiana really believe Edwards can win the race in a deeply red state, but so far he has benefited from a strange set of circumstances. First, Edwards made it through the primary without even being noticed by his competitors; Vitter spent his time attacking Angelle and Dardenne, while they spent their time attacking him, and all three were beaten bloody by Election Night. Second, despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in PAC contributions on his behalf by unions like the American Federation of Teachers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, somehow Edwards has managed to keep intact the notion that he’s a conservative Democrat — in the face of a lifetime rating of 25 by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry on economic conservative issues and a meager 51 by the Louisiana Family Forum on social issues.

But Edwards, a trial lawyer by trade and one of the most vociferous critics of Republican policy in the state legislature (obnoxiously so, though the general public which pays no attention whatsoever to the proceedings at the state legislature is blissfully unaware of his exploits), is running on his attendance at West Point and his time as an officer in the U.S. Army. “David Vitter wouldn’t last a day at West Point,” is the tag line of his campaign. So far it is resonating.

Edwards was on hand at the 2012 Democrat National Convention to re-nominate Obama, the most pro-abortion president in American history, and he fought against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the awful videos of body parts sales which surfaced this summer, and yet he styles himself “pro-life” without any push-back from the state’s media. He says he’s pro-gun, though neither the NRA nor Gun Owners of America seem convinced; they’ve endorsed Vitter. He’s dodged gubernatorial debates from tort reform groups and social conservatives while Vitter has been dinged for skipping forums put on by the state’s decidedly leftist media, with no notice paid to the former.

It’s been a free ride, and in the meantime Vitter is fighting uphill amid a cacophony of “questions” about 15-year old sexual peccadilloes long in the public eye. That accounts for Edwards’ lead to date, though Vitter appears to have an overwhelming financial edge and is using it on a series of brutal ads pointing out Edwards’ ties to Obama — including a controversial spot noting that Edwards has promised to let 5,500 of Louisiana’s criminals out of prison in an effort to slip under Mississippi and achieve the nation’s second-highest incarceration rate. Criminal justice reform is something both candidates have paid homage to, but only Edwards has made criminal release bean-counting a part of his campaign narrative.

At the end of the day, whether Vitter can rally — and perhaps make fools of the pollsters as Bevin has done — will tell the tale whether 2015 is an off-year fluke or a harbinger of a wave to come.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics. He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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