Matt Bevin's promise to Trump falls short

Louisville Courier Journal

Published 6:17 AM EST Nov 7, 2019

Republican incumbent Matt Bevin assured President Donald Trump personally that he would win reelection by 10%.

That's what a high-ranking GOP official who was in the room said happened not long after Trump finished with his Monday rally in Lexington on Bevin's behalf.

The president, according to the source, nodded in approval at Bevin's assurances that the race against Democratic challenger Andy Beshear was in the bag.

Earlier, Trump told thousands of supporters in Rupp Arena how his reputation was on the line: "If you lose, it sends a really bad message. You can't let that happen to me."

Bevin's promise to the president fell short, however. 

Some Republicans who have had an arm's length relationship with the governor from the start say they are just as pleased as Democrats with Tuesday's results. They say while Beshear was traversing through mountainous Eastern Kentucky with former Democratic primary opponent Rocky Adkins, for instance, Bevin refused to seek or take the help of former and current GOP leaders.

The latest: Gov. Matt Bevin campaign requests election recanvass

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly prodded the president to help out, but his folks aren't too broken up about the loss. In 2014, if you recall, Bevin made an audacious debut in Kentucky politics by challenging the GOP boss man in the primary election.

McConnell's close allies and former aides have publicly — and privately — made it clear that the president shouldn't be blamed for Bevin's loss, and that their boss isn't sweating the outcome.

"When you treat people poorly for four years, talk down to them, and you're the smartest person in the room all the time, that comes home to roost. You can't just be a jerk and there not be a consequence," a longtime and close McConnell confidante, who asked for anonymity to speak freely, said of Bevin. 

Team Mitch is also signaling to other GOP elected officials that Bevin needs to give up trying to contest the election results based on unspecified irregularities, and accept that Beshear is the clear winner.

"(Bevin) wrote himself out of the history books — he lost," the McConnell adviser said. "There's nobody who thinks he won the election. We counted the votes, and he lost."

The Trump train later rolled over Bevin, too.

The president's campaign pointed out how the Rupp rally "helped five of six Kentucky Republicans win" their statewide races, including McConnell protege Daniel Cameron for attorney general.

"The president just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line," Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement, "helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end."

Secretary of state: Bevin should 'honor' election result and help Beshear transition

Trump also tweeted that Bevin picked up at least 15 points in the race over the last few days, basically implying he was far, far behind Beshear before the president got involved. 

Kentucky's other senator, Rand Paul, who attended the Rupp rally, notably didn't mention the governor by name. The reason for such an omission could be accidental, but some supporters said it was a stick in Bevin's eye for endorsing neurosurgeon Ben Carson over Paul in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

When national commentators suggested Tuesday was a bad night for Trump and the Republicans, Doug Stafford, who is Paul's chief strategist, was quick to blame Bevin.

"I believe their point clear — if EVERY R BUT ONE on a statewide ticket wins, that’s not a KY party problem. It’s a one person problem," Stafford tweeted. "That point is painfully self evident except to those who wish to willfully ignore it."

But Bevin isn't going quietly into the night.

As Beshear is preparing for a transition, the governor's campaign broke its silence with a Wednesday news release and press conference. It said Tuesday's election was "too close to call" and again alluded to unspecified "multiple reports of voting irregularities," leading Bevin to ask for a recanvass.

Trump: McConnell 'will win BIG' in 2020 based on Kentucky election results

"The people of Kentucky deserve a fair and honest election," Bevin campaign manager Davis Paine said. "With reports of irregularities, we are exercising the right to ensure that every lawful vote was counted."

The governor may find dwindling friends, if he ever had any, in the General Assembly. Some are openly weighing whether contesting the election results is worth the political cost.

In a Facebook message, state Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, who referred to Beshear as "governor-elect" said no matter how painful it might be, the GOP must accept the results.

"This was a close election, and a recanvass may be appropriate," Nemes said. "I am told that can be done within a week. Let’s get that done immediately. And if there is evidence of fraud or illegalities, as was alluded to last night, Gov. Bevin should state his claim immediately and let the evidence be reviewed. But this is not an opportunity for a fishing expedition or a chance to overturn the election result."

Reach Phillip M. Bailey at [email protected] or 502-582-4475. Follow him on Twitter at @phillipmbailey.