What clues do this week’s elections hold for 2024?

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Voters pass a sign outside a polling site in Warwick, R.I., Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. (David Goldman/AP)
Voters pass a sign outside a polling site in Warwick, R.I., Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. (David Goldman/AP)

In Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and other states, voters made some big statements about what they want in state and local government.

What clues do this week’s elections hold for 2024?

Today, On Point: What state and local elections teach us about election 2024.


Delegate Don Scott, Democratic leader in Virginia’s House of Delegates.

Jack Beatty, On Point's news analyst.

Simon Rosenberg, longtime Democratic strategist. Author of a Substack called the Hopium Chronicles.

Austin Horn, politics reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Coy Ferrell, editor at the Loudoun Times-Mirror, a weekly newspaper in Loudoun County, Virginia.


Part I

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Democrats had a big day on Tuesday. In Kentucky, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear won re-election.

ANDY BESHEAR: Kentucky made a choice. (AUDIENCE CHEERS) A choice not to move to the right or to the left. But to move forward for every single family. (CHEERS)

CHAKRABARTI: And in Ohio, voters approved a ballot measure that adds protection for abortion rights to the state's constitution.

On Point listener Patti Dallas in Yellow Springs, Ohio, celebrated.

PATTI DALLAS: I'm pleased to live in a state where people truly care for each other.

And we've shown that we don't want the government to interfere with our personal decisions.

CHAKRABARTI: In Virginia, Democrats took control of the state's House of Delegates and now hold the majority in the legislature. They'll have to work with Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin. And school board races were on many ballots across the country too, where voters rejected extreme candidates. For some leading Republicans in Congress, the message was loud and clear.

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis said, quote, "Yesterday, to me, was a complete failure." He said that on Wednesday.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney, quote, "I don't think it's a big secret. In many states, abortion is not a winning issue for Republicans," end quote.

But the internal tensions within the Republican Party were also loud and clear.

In Ohio, where voters passed those abortion protections, State Senate President Matt Huffman said, quote, "This is not the end. This is just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1."

Then there's Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. Her extreme wing of the party proved its power in the recent ousting of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

She suggested GOP losses were due to the party not being radical enough. Quote, "Republicans are losing voters because the base is fed up with weak Republicans who never do anything to stop the communist Democrats," she said.

Quote, "The Republican Party has only a short time to change their weak ways."

This week's election has particularly a state and local focus.

It was not a presidential election year, so now that the dust has settled over the past few days, really, what clues do this week's election results hold for Democrats and Republicans when it comes to 2024 and beyond? We're going to start back in Virginia with delegate Don Scott. He's the Democratic leader in Virginia's House of Delegates, where he represents the 88th House district.

He was previously the minority leader, but could become the state's first Black speaker of the house. He won reelection on Tuesday. Leader Scott, welcome to On Point.

DELEGATE DON SCOTT: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

CHAKRABARTI: Now, first of all, tell me, I've been reading conflicting things about whether Democrats expected to have this huge win in the Virginia State Legislature or if it came as something of a surprise.

What do you think?

SCOTT: I can tell you what I thought. I expected it. Because I'd been talking to voters for the last year and a half since I took over as leader. And what I knew was that the majority of the voters, men and women, did not want the government interfering with their most personal, intimate decisions with their own bodies.

And so I knew that issue around reproductive health care and abortion was going to be a huge issue. And I expected the voters to reject this new version of MAGA Republican extremism. Again, I don't know, I think the governor tried to repackage it. I call it MAGA Lite.

And so I think voters rejected MAGA and then they rejected MAGA Lite. They want politicians and folks in government to move to the middle. And a bipartisan way to get things done and help them with solutions in their everyday lives.

CHAKRABARTI: Now, how do you compare that overall sentiment that voters carried with them into voting booths this week to what also seemed like a sense of frustration and anger at politicians, that drove Governor Glenn Youngkin to his victory a couple of years ago? Is it just that Virginia voters are frustrated overall, or is the pendulum really shifting here?

SCOTT: Meghna, I think what really happened is that the pandemic played a huge role in what happened in 2021, that brought the governor in.

I think we underestimate the impact of the trauma of losing over a billion Americans. Being shut down. The frustration with that, with schools being shut down. I think that was a response and a pendulum swing as a response to a lot of heavy-handed government intervention that probably had to happen to save lives.

And I think that played a huge role. And now I think we've come back to some normalcy here. And I think Virginia is still a very purple state. I think people forget that the House of Delegates where I serve was held by Republicans for 20 years straight, up until 2020 when we flipped the house. And then it went back to Republicans and now it's back to Democrats, it's been Republican for 22 of the last 24 years.

And so I think folks need to understand that, across the country, that within these 100 districts, it's very purple. And I'm not surprised that it was a close fight, but I expected to win. I planned to win. We all ran a great campaign, great field program against a formidable opponent who the likes of which we've never seen.

And Glenn Youngkin, who was able to raise millions and millions of dollars, sometimes from one donor at a time. We've never seen anything like that in the Commonwealth of Virginia. So to have overcome a formidable opponent like Glenn Youngkin, I think, speaks highly to the message and the principles and the values that we think resonate with voters here.

Leader Scott, let me just ask you for one point of clarification because coming back to what you said first about voters sending a clear message about their views or at least the majority of voters on their views on reproductive rights, was it that Governor Yunkin was proposing some kind of limitation on abortion rights in Virginia?

SCOTT: Absolutely. I think that played a huge role that he wanted to, he proposed a 15 week ban that he said, his words, quote-unquote, a consensus. I just think he forgot to talk to women about it. This consensus viewpoint. And I think even the races that we didn't win, they were very close. And so we know that, as we continue to move forward, we're going to be much, much more competitive here and continue to grow our majority here in Virginia.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay. So a couple more questions here about how the Democrats' strong showing in Virginia on Tuesday, how you might take that forward in terms of now you have to govern, excuse me, with Governor Youngkin.

Do you have a strategy for that, you've said a couple of times that Virginia is indeed a purple state. So is there a common ground that you think Democrats in the legislature and Glenn Youngkin can find?

SCOTT: I think so. I think there are issues that the voters have told us that they care about, that they want us to work on, around economic development, around making sure that our teachers are paid at the national average, which Virginia, as wealthy as our state is.

We don't pay our teachers, they're below the national average. I think we can build our economy. Our crumbling infrastructure in schools. I think the public wanted us to invest in public education. The governor proposed a $1 billion ongoing tax cut for corporations that didn't ask for it. And we, the voters clearly rejected that.

We have a different vision and I think the governor is going to come on board to help us really make an investment in our infrastructure with our schools. I think that this message to him was like, "You can govern and do the right thing and still be true to your conservative values."

And I think voters want us to come together on these issues, and I think we will be able to come together, making sure that we address our opioid addiction crisis, make sure that we deal with our gun violence epidemic that's going on, not only here in Virginia, but across the country, make sure that we do what we can to take these weapons of war off the streets.

Reinforce and strengthen our red flag laws here. Every Republican in the House of Delegates voted to repeal our red flag laws, even in the face of the mass shootings that we're seeing every day. And so I believe that the governor will not fight that again and that we can, we won't litigate that again.

We can continue to strengthen those red flag laws. So I think there are things that, it used to be these were common sense ideas, but because of our politics now, they've become polarizing, and I think Democrats are in the middle on these issues. We're in the center, and we're hoping that the Republicans will meet us in the middle, where I think most Virginians are.

CHAKRABARTI: As Leader Scott, we actually have quite a few listeners in Virginia, and they sent us their thoughts over the past couple of days. Not all of them were happy with the results of the election in Virginia. First of all, let's listen to what this listener said.

TONY: Yeah, as a Virginian here in Central Virginia not near the extremes of Northern Virginia or Richmond I'm not sure that we're going to be represented anymore.

CHAKRABARTI: So that's On Point listener Tony, and he's in Harrisonburg, Virginia, about 51,000 people in the Shenandoah Valley, and he told us that more liberal areas of Virginia, he sees those areas as getting a bigger share of state funding and somehow more representation.

TONY: They get the representation, and they get the money, and they leave us out and we don't appreciate that anymore.

CHAKRABARTI: So Harrisonburg is part of Rockingham County and that county voted for Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin by a margin of 75% to 24% when Youngkin was elected in 2021.

TONY: I'm not sure that the media is doing a very good job in representing us in your coverage. You are, your coverage is obviously very biased.

You're trying to tie everything as a referendum on Glenn Youngkin when it was,

CHAKRABARTI: that's not what it was necessarily. Leader Scott, how would you respond to Tony? First of all, he just doesn't think this is a referendum on Glenn Youngkin.

SCOTT: I agree with him. It's not a referendum on Glenn Youngkin.

It's a referendum on the MAGA Republican extremism, the total package. Glenn Youngkin is just the face of it now. I think I can empathize with him, because I come from a smaller community that's always been fighting for resources, as well. I represent Portsmouth, Virginia, House District 88, and we're in that same fight.

But what he needs to understand is that the Republicans have been in control of the House of Delegates for 22 of 24 years. So if he's not been represented by the people that he's continued to vote for, he might want to take a look at an alternative and take a look at what we've been doing. His party has been in power for 22 of 24 years.

He should be asking why he's still voting for them when they have not delivered for him.

CHAKRABARTI: But then now that the Democrats control the Virginia legislature, what do you expect to do to meet Tony's needs?

SCOTT: I think the beautiful thing about Virginia, it's truly a commonwealth.

So when North Virginia grows, Harrisonburg grows, Portsmouth grows, Central Virginia grows, Southside, Southwest Virginia grows. We're in this together. A rising tide lifts all boats. And so we want to make sure that we're addressing the entire commonwealth. Northern Virginia is part of the economic engine of Virginia.

They're huge defense contracts, because they're so close to D.C., but we know that we can make sure that we take care of every single Virginian and every single community and meet those needs in those communities. So I'm hopeful that he'll give us an opportunity, give us a chance and we'll deliver like the people that he's voted for have not delivered.

Part II

CHAKRABARTI: We just heard from the Democratic leader in Virginia's House of Delegates. Because now the Democrats lead or are in control of the Virginia State Legislature.

And Leader Scott, Leader Don Scott told us that he thinks a lot of this had to do with reproductive rights. There's no question about that in Ohio, because there, voters overwhelmingly chose to enshrine reproductive rights in the state's constitution. And it's very interesting the kinds of calls we got from listeners.

Here's Ohio listener Roi Qualls in Yellow Springs. He says he's morally opposed to abortion, but does not think it's the government's job to ban it.

ROI QUALLS: I believe that human life begins at conception and that abortion is an awful thing. But I supported this amendment. I would urge any woman contemplating that choice to consult with the best medical, family, and spiritual resources at her disposal.

She certainly does not need me or the government to tell her what she has to do. She is accountable to our creator for her decision.

CHAKRABARTI: That's listener Roi Qualls in Yellow Springs. Here's Solveig Spjeldnes  in Athens, Ohio. She was part of a group of women that organized to get Ohio's ballot measure passed.

SOLVEIG SPJELDNES: We organized pro Issue 1 presence at our farmer's market, in front of the county courthouse. At every event we could think of. Parades, made calls, canvas, distributed 500-yard signs, bought billboard space, and much more. We beat our extremist Republican leadership, despite their egregious lies, manipulations, and power moves to defeat us. We won.

CHAKRABARTI: That's another Ohio listener reacting to the election or results from this week. Joining us now is Simon Rosenberg. He's a longtime Democratic strategist, author of a Substack called Hopium Chronicles, and he's with us from Washington. Simon, welcome to you.

SIMON ROSENBERG: It's great to be here, Meghna.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay. And also with us today is Jack Beatty. He's On Point's news analyst. Hello there, Jack.

JACK BEATTY: Hello, Meghna. Hello, Simon.

CHAKRABARTI: Simon, my first question is actually for you. Because, of course, in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday of this week, Wednesday and Thursday, there was a lot of even somewhat surprise celebration from Democrats saying that, yes, the issue is loud and clear.

They have to take abortion protection into the 2024 election. Do you think, though, that once the immediate excitement dies down, reality is going to set in again about the difference between state and local elections and national elections in a presidential year.

ROSENBERG: Two points. I think, first of all, since Dobbs in the spring of 2022, we have been winning in special elections, in November elections and mayoral elections and ballot initiatives in dozens and dozens of races and all sorts of states all across the country.

It's been an incredible performance by the Democratic Party, and it's why the Republicans are so worried. We keep overperforming expectations in race after race throughout this entire year. For example, there were 33 House and Senate special elections across the country this year in the statehouse.

And we overperformed our 2020 numbers by over six points. And in 2020, we won the election by four and a half points, right? So to be that far ahead of 2020 in race after race across the country, is a remarkable performance. So we feel really good about where things are. And heading to 2024, I would much rather be us than them.

In the last four presidential elections, we've averaged 51% of the vote. Republicans have averaged 46% of the vote. So as we've grown the electorate and gotten bigger. Democrats have actually gotten stronger. And so I think as we head into 2024, we feel like we have momentum at our back.

We're going to have a strong ticket. Joe Biden's been a good president and they're going to have Donald Trump. And I think it's going to be very hard to sell Donald Trump and MAGA extremism to the public, as Don Scott was saying earlier today.

CHAKRABARTI: Jack Beatty, Simon's exactly right about percentage growth, but that doesn't necessarily equate into capturing the Electoral College, of course.

But love to hear your thoughts on this, Jack.

BEATTY: I think Ron Brownstein in The Atlantic had a felicitous formulation. He said, "Democrats are doing better at the polls than in the polls." And evidence for that abounds. For example, in 18 Ohio counties that Trump carried in 2020, reproductive rights won this time.

However, a poll among, exit poll among people who voted for reproductive rights, showed they thought Joe Biden shouldn't run. 72% of them. So the polls, and in the polls and at the polls, the Dems are doing much better. Yes. In all these elections. But the week began with that dolorous for the Democrats poll of battleground states in the Times, which I think chilled the entire Democratic establishment. Because it showed Trump up and Biden just not making it.

CHAKRABARTI: Jack point well taken on that, but I do wonder if the same could potentially apply to Republican races in a presidential year, right?

Because, first of all, we're a year out from 2024 Election Day. So I always have, take a major salt mine full of salt with these early polls. But on the other hand, in 2016, there were a lot of people say, who wouldn't answer about whether or not they would vote for Donald Trump, or their answer did not match at all in the way they voted at the polls in 2016.

So couldn't we also say in that case, in a presidential year, Republicans do better at the polls than in the polls, Jack?

BEATTY: I take that point. However, it's a different, it's a different electorate, isn't it? An electorate in next year is going to be as much as 60% larger than the turnout in this off-year election.

And experts say that's a Trump-ier electorate. These special elections take, they did very well, Democrats did very well in suburban areas, among affluent people, professional people, but it's the more blue-collar and pink-collar voter who is going to turn out in next year.

And in other words, we can't really prognosticate on the basis of these numbers to that result.

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah, Simon, I'd love to hear your response to that.

ROSENBERG: I don't really agree. I think that what matters, in our looking at data, what matters more is how people are voting, than how people are responding to polls.

And we've had, I just want to go back to a little bit of history, right? Since 2018, Democrats, we won the 2018 election. We won the 2020 election. We won the 2022 election. We won the 2023 election, and there's just no reason to believe unless something dramatic happens with the economy or with things overseas, that things are going to turn all of a sudden sour to the Democrats, particularly when the driving force of our politics since 2018 has been opposition and fear of MAGA.

And in 2024, we're going to have super MAGA on the ballot. Trump will be even more extreme and more radical than he'd been in previous elections, because two big things have happened since 2020. First of all, abortion, which you've discussed. But the second thing is the Republicans tried to end American democracy in 2021, and there is this incredible sense in the American electorate that something has gone deeply wrong with Republicans.

There is fear of them coming to power, which is why you're seeing this continued high turnout, high performance. Democrats are raising more money than we've ever raised before. And because there is, the driving force in our politics, for years now, has been fear and opposition to MAGA. That is going to be on steroids next year in 2024 with Trump on the ballot.

So the way I see this is that Democrats have a significant structural advantage now. In that New York times poll, there was a question about Trump versus a generic Democrat. And a generic Democrat beat Trump by eight points. And that means that there's a structural deficiency for the Republicans, as we've been seeing in election after election over the last 18 months.

So I think Democrats, look, it's going to be a tough election. We have a lot of work to do, but in every way possible, I'd much rather be us than them. And I'm very optimistic about our chances next year.

CHAKRABARTI: But Simon, Joe Biden is not a generic Democrat, right? How much faith can you put in that poll of Trump against the generic Democrat?

ROSENBERG: Because I think we also know from polling that voters don't really know what Joe Biden's done. And when they're informed, his numbers go way up.

Listen, that's what a campaign's for, right? We have a year to make our case. I think we have a very strong case for re-election. I think Joe Biden's been a good president.

I think the country is better off. I think he's managed very challenging international events, adroitly. And aggressively. And I think that's what a campaign's for. And as somebody who's been doing this for over 30 years, I can see our path to victory. We can make the case. He's been a good president. We're going to have a strong agenda for the second term.

How do you sell Trump? Really, truly, he's going to be the worst major party nominee in American history. Who has ... 91 felony counts against him. He'll have, been convicted of sexually assaulting a woman. The challenge of selling him, we have more ammunition to describe the Republicans as being out of the mainstream and dangerous to the Republic than any political set of political operatives have ever had.

And so I'm very confident that when you take our record of success, the strong agenda we're going to have for the second term, and the awfulness of Trump and MAGA, the fear and awfulness of Trump and MAGA. That we're going to be fine in 2024, but we've got to go work hard, make the case, do the work, and I think we'll be successful next year.

CHAKRABARTI: So Jack, I completely hear what Simon's saying in terms of January 6th, 2021, being one of the darkest days in American democracy, plus all of the lies that led up to it and followed. He's absolutely right about that. But again, I will let this point go in a second, but I'm just curious about how much presidential election years differ from off election years or off non presidential election years.

Because at the same time, while Simon is accurately listing all the strengths that can be lined up behind a Joe Biden presidency or reelection campaign, Jack, that in the past, what, couple of months, there's been a whole raft of books coming out from various political Democratic political analysts saying the Achilles heel for the Democrats are other social issues, right?

Social justice issues about how Democrats talk about race, et cetera. Do you think that it's possible that with the pattern of why Democrats won this week, that perhaps nationally as a strategy, they may step back from the kinds of sort of race and gender issues that were trumpeted so loudly in previous elections.

BEATTY: Yes. And certainly, that isn't Joe Biden's idiom. That he hasn't, that's a sort of the progressive strain in the party to which he tips his hat and says very little. So I don't expect much of that from him. On the other hand, he is a strange proponent of reproductive rights. There was a couple of years ago, there was a website called "When Will Biden Speak on Abortion?"

And there was a big headline, barely he used the word abortion in a state of the Union speech this year, but the past year he hadn't. And it's not an issue that comes easy to him. In an interview in 2006, he said, "I'm a practicing Catholic, and it's the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my religious views with my political responsibilities."

Another way to read that is with my political ambitions. And he moved in the direction of his political ambitions in 2019 when he abandoned his longtime support of the Hyde Amendment, which limited federal spending on people getting abortions. But the point is, he's never comfortable even addressing the issue.

He will quickly shift it to privacy or something else. So yes, they've got a good issue. They don't necessarily have the candidate who represents that issue.

CHAKRABARTI: Maybe they don't need Joe Biden to talk about abortion exclusively. Because, after Dobbs, as we saw on Tuesday, everybody else in the Democrat Democratic Party is, to great effect.

So with that in mind, let's turn to Kentucky, a very important and interesting state. Where Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear won reelection on Tuesday and Austin Horn joins us. He's in Lexington. He's the politics reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Austin, welcome to you.

AUSTIN HORN: Thanks for having me, Meghna.

CHAKRABARTI: So how would you describe essentially what the Beshear playbook was that propelled him to reelection?

HORN: Yeah, I think the first thing to know about Andy Beshear is that he's part of a political dynasty that you really couldn't have cooked up a better one for a state in a lab.

His father was governor for two terms before him. And he was first elected to statewide office in 1979. So a long time ago, he has both long history in the state. And recent contact in that sort of Beshear dynasty. And he's also built a kind of name ID, like a lot of governors have, in the COVID era.

But this year, you guys were talking about abortion. Abortion really did play a big role in this state. The governor hit particularly on the state's trigger ban on abortion. We have essentially a near complete ban. There are no exceptions on rape. Or incest. Which I think a lot of people that we've seen in polling, shows that's been very unpopular among Kentuckians.

And he, I think the turning point of the race, I would say, is an ad that he aired featuring a young woman who was 12 years old when she was raped by her stepfather.

CHAKRABARTI: Austin, hang on here for a second, because we have that ad. And in fact, Andy Beshear thanked the woman in that ad, Hadley Duvall. And the Beshear campaign ran this ad a lot in Kentucky.

In it, we're going to hear it here, but in it, she sits and talks directly to the camera.

HADLEY DUVALL: I was raped by my stepfather after years of sexual abuse. I was 12. Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it's like to stand in my shoes. This is to you, Daniel Cameron.

To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable. I'm speaking out because women and girls need to have options. Daniel Cameron would give us none.

CHAKRABARTI: Austin Horn, I understand that Hadley Duvall, that she approached the Beshear campaign and wanted to send a message like this?

HORN: Yeah, it was, I think, a combination of her putting that information out there and then the Beshear campaign contacting her. So it's a little bit of both, I would say. But it really goes to show how if abortion is a losing issue for the GOP in Kentucky, then where is it a winning issue?

We're a deeply conservative state. And yeah, I think they really effectively chipped away on sort of the margin of the debate that was most advantageous to them in a really smart way. The Beshear campaign did.

Part III

CHAKRABARTI: Before we get back to today's show about this week's election results, Jack, since you're with us on the live hour here today, I just want to congratulate you that The Jackpod, that's a special on our podcast feed, it's reached its 10th episode. How time flies, Jack, doesn't it?

BEATTY: When we're having such fun.

CHAKRABARTI: (LAUGHS) The Jackpod, as folks who listen to it know, is our special feature on our podcast feed where Jack really unwinds his analysis about aspects of life and politics in America today, that you may not know about. And Jack, give me the 10 second promo of what's in The Jackpod that people can listen to today.

BEATTY: Excuse me.

CHAKRABARTI: I'll give you a second. It's because you're getting all choked up about how well The Jackpod is doing.

BEATTY: I beg your pardon. (COUGHS) We're talking about the, oh gosh, I've just got something.

CHAKRABARTI: That's okay, Jack. I'm going to cover for you here. So Jack in The Jackpod talks about, the title of it is Last exit or 'Live free or die.'

And it's a cautionary tale about the minefield that early primaries and caucuses are in a presidential election year. If you're not already subscribed to the On Point feed, go ahead and do that. And today you can listen to the 10th episode of hopefully an infinite number of The Jackpod. So that's in our podcast feed.

Today we are talking about what lessons, what clues, if any, could this week's state and local set of elections have for 2024. And Jack is with us. Simon Rosenberg is with us as well. He's a longtime Democratic strategist. And Austin Horn joins us from Lexington, Kentucky. He's a politics reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Austin, I had a couple more questions for you about the lessons to learn for Democrats and Republicans from Kentucky. First of all, you had mentioned that Governor Beshear ran a very disciplined campaign focusing on abortion, because it had the largest, sort of, what'd you say, the potential gain in voters given Kentucky's strict abortion laws.

What else did Beshear talk about on the campaign trail? And I'm asking because from the national perspective, I saw a bunch of headlines that kind of summed up to can of Joe Biden playbook work in deep red Kentucky. Is that what Beshear did?

HORN: Yeah, I think there are some things to take away from that.

Abortion was obviously a big part of it, and that's, I think, going to be, to some extent, part of the Biden playbook, but a unique to Beshear thing is really that name ID that he's built up. And as an incumbent governor, he's gotten a lot of FaceTime with voters. Through the COVID pandemic, he was on everybody's TV pretty much every single day.

But one, I think Biden particular sort of strategy that he used was he regionalized his appeal to voters when it came to infrastructure projects, the Northern Kentucky contingent, which is a large suburban part of the state. That's pretty conservative. He won that region, and he did it by really trumpeting the Brent Spence Bridge, which is this really vital infrastructure corridor.

And he did it and he emphasized over and over again without tolls. So he picked a big project in each part of the state and really emphasized that, which you could see President Biden doing once that sort of, that campaign really kicks up.

And then another thing that I think could maybe be parlayed on a national stage is a very personal aspect of this year's campaign. He said it over and over again to voters, and it was his final ad was, "Me. You know me as a person. You think I am a solid guy and therefore why would you fire me?"

Which I wouldn't be shocked to see that be part of President Biden's message, especially if he runs against somebody who's as controversial and I think divisive at times as the former president.

CHAKRABARTI: Austin Horn, politics reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader, thank you so much for joining us.

HORN: Thank you, Meghna.

CHAKRABARTI: Simon Rosenberg, give us your take on.

ROSENBERG: Yeah, that was a great interview, and I think I learned a lot actually listening to that. And listen, I think there is this universal lesson from all these elections, which is that the Democrats continue to overperform in all parts of the country.

The Republicans continue to struggle. We are optimistic about what that means for 2024, but recognize we have an awful lot of work to do. There's no illusion about that. But we can't undercut the enormity of what's happened over the last 18 months. We've been, we got to, in 2022, we not only in what was supposed to be a red wave year, we got to 59% of the vote in Colorado, 57% in Pennsylvania, 55% in Michigan, 54% in New Hampshire.

This year we flipped two very large Republican cities, Jacksonville and Colorado Springs. We got to 56% in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, 57% in Ohio. We won in Kentucky. And so right now Democrats are winning in all regions of the country, even in deep red places. We even made Mississippi competitive, right?

Which nobody thought was going to happen. And we're pleased with our performance. And Republicans, as you've pointed out in your introduction, are worried. They're worried they keep losing and, Vivek, the other night in the Republican debate, talked about how they just keep losing election after election.

And that's important. Because it's not just about how voters feel. Elections and campaigns have, you have to raise money. There's tactics involved, right? You have to raise money and have ads on the air. You have do GOTV And field organizations. And right now, the Democratic Party is strong.

We keep winning everywhere. We're raising tons of money. We have really good candidates. And the Republicans, I think, are really struggling, not just at a message level, but even at a tactical level. Some of their state parties have run out of money. They've had huge issues about whether the early vote is good or not so good, right?

Their candidates are not raising a lot of money. And so right now, as we head into 2024, there's one strong party that keeps winning across the country and another party that's weak, divided, and keeps losing.

CHAKRABARTI: So we're going to return to Virginia in just a second here. But Jack, hoping that all is well with you actually, first and foremost, I just want to say that. But second of all, given the numbers and the data that Simon has just laid out there, in terms of the strength of the Democratic Party, I'm still drawing my mind back to what you said earlier about, do those numbers and that data, do they match voter perception within the party?

And beyond of the Biden administration? Because, of course, next year is just going to be, it is a presidential election year. There's no doubt about that. It will be seen as something of a referendum on the Biden administration. Is there a gap there?

BEATTY: I think there is. And Simon, that panoply of success, that sounds great.

What do all those instances have in common, though? They don't involve Joe Biden. He's not on the ballot. And the polls showing that people do not want him to run again, even many Democrats, I don't know what the latest percentage is, but it's ominous. Don't want him to run. And not out of necessarily any antagonism to his policies.

But it's his age and his waning powers. And I think that's not going to go away. And strangely enough, people think Trump, who is given to this, vague baffle gab where he just says anything that comes into his head, people think he's sharper by much, over Biden.

And that's an issue that just isn't going to go away, and it's almost like a threshold issue. Can we trust the country in this man, with this man for the next four years, which would take him to nearly age 90?

CHAKRABARTI: Okay, perhaps it's because of my own background as having been a local reporter for a long time.

I actually believe that local races and issues and how voters vote on them are the purest measure of what matters to people. So I want to turn back around to school board elections that have happened.

ROSENBERG: I'm with you, Meghna.

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah. Because the rubber meets the road when it comes to local governance. So let's go back to Virginia and specifically take a quick look at what happened in Loudoun County regarding the school board there.

Coy Ferrell joins us. Coy is editor at the Loudoun Times-Mirror. It's a weekly paper in Loudoun County. Coy, welcome to On Point.

COY FERRELL: Thank you. Hello.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay. So first of all, I just want to play a little bit of archival tape. This is from October 2022 because Loudoun County school board meetings, like many across the country, have become scenes of very heated public comment.

So here's one example.

Parent Clint Thomas at the Loudoun County school board meeting. Again, October of last year.

CLINT THOMAS: Parents listen up. This school board is actively participating in destroying the basic building block of our society, the nuclear family. This board gives lip service and Strategic Goal 1.3 to prioritizing care for students and providing a safe and affirming learning environment. Yet it's only for some students, not the majority of students.

Including girls who still have to grapple with the reality that this board allows a biological male in girls restrooms and locker rooms. This has become a cult, and this board is actively involved in the eight stages of cult like behavior, when it comes to pushing your equity agenda on our kids.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay Coy, there was a lot of passionate outrage --

FERRELL: To say the least.

CHAKRABARTI: I should say, at school board meetings in Loudoun County. What happened on Tuesday?

FERRELL: Sure long story short, I think that that public speaker represents many people in Loudoun County, but he does not represent the majority. That's not what we saw on Tuesday.

The majority of voters voted to keep the status quo. We had a board, or we have a board right now that has six Democratic endorsed candidates. We will have a board, starting Jan. 1that has six Democratic endorsed candidates. It's a nine-member board.

So while the incumbents, the two incumbents who ran this year lost, I think that the majority of voters are happy with the general direction that the school division is going, even if the individuals on that school board either did not run or were ousted.

Much because of this very high profile 2021 student on student sexual assaults and That really made Loudoun a proxy battlefield for this larger culture war that, was fought in school divisions across the country.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay. Coy, this is so interesting. I just want to repeat what you said to be sure I heard it right. In terms of the individuals on the school board, two incumbents lost, but the makeup, the political makeup, if I can put it that way, of the school board remained the same in terms of, it's all Democrats.

FERRELL: Yes, so it's really fascinating. Again, Loudoun County has been in the news. And it has been under extreme scrutiny. And so on this nine-member board, only two incumbents ran, both Democratic endorsed. And so there was certainly discontent with the way that the individual school board members across the political spectrum handled this response to the 2021 sexual assaults.

But I think when you take the individuals out, voters said, "We like the direction the school division is going, we feel that they're doing the best for our kids." And they rejected arguments that essentially cast the school division under Democratic leadership as an indoctrination factory that was so focused on accommodating transgender students, and LGBTQ students and racial equity initiatives, that academics were falling behind.

I think voters by and large rejected that argument. And though we'll have all new school board members, the individuals, I think the direction of the school division will remain the same.

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah. So this is why, again, I just think that local elections are so important. Because voters were actually voting on individual things that school board members were doing, voting on, advocating.

We actually got some calls as well from Loudoun County voters who were glad that the whole school board changed over. Because they felt that those previous Democrats had failed on some of those issues that you talked about, protecting students and whatnot.

In a sense, Coy, just in a couple of seconds here, does that mean that things like school board elections, we saw a lot of turnover in different places across the country, of voters rejecting some of the more extreme candidates, for different reasons there.

Is it not a good measure of how those same voters might vote on a national level?

FERRELL: I think voters, this is an affluent suburb of Washington, D. C. And I think voters here, not just the school board race, but in other races in northern Virginia and across Virginia, I think voters voted for moderation and the status quo.

I don't think there were any high-profile races where the winner had campaigned on radical changes to the existing structure. But I think that voters are, the majority of voters were at least happy with the way things are. They wanted to keep existing abortion law in place. They wanted to keep existing school board school policy in place, and certainly were not amenable to radically changing anything that is already in place here, at least in Virginia.

CHAKRABARTI: Coy Ferrell, editor at the Loudoun Times-Mirror. It's a weekly paper in Loudoun County. First of all, I want to tell everyone, support your local journalists. They are the last window into your local politics and it's very important, but Coy, thank you so much for joining us.

FERRELL: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay. So we've got only about a minute left here. So I would just want to hear quickly from both Jack and Simon. Jack, it sounds like, in a sense, as Coy said, one of the takeaway lessons from 2023, of this week, is voters, they're tired of the crazy. Do you think?

BEATTY: Yes, they are. Yes. Yes. That's a good sign.

Probably for the Democrats. They're not crazy. And, notably on the transgender front, Virginia elected a transgender woman, Danica Roem, to the House of Delegates. And that's the first one in the South. So that's quite a moment, I think, for transgender rights.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay, Simon, you get just a few seconds here, because.

ROSENBERG: Yeah, MAGA, listen MAGA's a failed politics for the Republican Party. It's failed in 2018, in 2020, in 2022, in 2023, and it's going to fail in 2024 with Trump.

CHAKRABARTI: I caution anyone, though, to have too much pride, lest there is a fall that happens after that, because who knows what happens during a presidential election year.


CHAKRABARTI: But Simon Rosenberg, longtime Democratic strategist and author of a subset called Hopium Chronicles. Thank you, Simon, for joining us.

ROSENBERG: Thanks so much, Meghna.

CHAKRABARTI: And Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst, great to have you on this hour, Jack, and everyone go subscribe to our podcast so you can get The Jackpod every Friday, but Jack, I hope you have a great weekend.

This program aired on November 10, 2023.


Headshot of Claire Donnelly

Claire Donnelly Producer, On Point
Claire Donnelly is a producer at On Point.


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Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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