You don’t have to wander long in the liberal commentariat to find projections that the Republican Party is in a death spiral, doomed by demographics, discredited by the dissension among House Republicans, disenchanted with its experienced presidential candidates and despised by the great mass of voters.
There is something to be said for each of these propositions — and yet Republican candidates keep winning elections, as in recent contests in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia.
Admittedly, the first three of these states have been solidly Republican in recent presidential and congressional elections, and Americans have increasingly been straight-ticket voters. But state issues do give a non-dominant party a chance to reframe issues across national party lines. And Virginia was the state that voted closest to national percentages in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
The Kentucky result was particularly striking. Retiring Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was a big booster of Obamacare and extended Medicaid to many low-income Kentuckians. The Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jack Conway, is an adept politico. Republican nominee Matt Bevin was distrusted by insiders for running in the primary against Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014, and he had a business record open to attack. Democrats spent about $9 million to Republicans’ $5 million. The RealClearPolitics average of public polls showed Conway leading 44 to 41 percent.