Kentucky, a state Donald Trump carried by thirty percentage points in 2016, will now be governed by a Democrat, as Andy Beshear unseated Republican Governor Matt Bevin in Tuesday night’s election.
Beshear’s victory is yet another sign that the very playbook Pete Buttigieg has adopted in his presidential campaign – promoting a tempered liberal agenda with common sense solutions, while refusing to make Trump-bashing a central component, can win over suburban voters.
Beshar, only 41 years old, stayed notably clear of attacking Trump, focusing instead on an even-keeled “down home” strategy, hacking at Bevin for cutting Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians, and for calling teachers “selfish and shortsighted” for protesting his proposed pension cuts. It proved to be the right formula as Beshear won big in urban cities as well as Louisville and Lexington, two of Kentucky’s biggest suburbs.
We’re seeing a similar approach with Pete Buttigieg. While his most serious rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren continue touting a major structural shift in health care requiring Americans to surrender their private medical plans, Pete’s approach is far more pragmatic. At a discussion in Chicago last month with David Axelrod, he made clear his vision of health care will be less of a lift for the country, and more welcoming to people already happy with what they have.
“There is a point where I think it’s too far for a lot of folks,” Buttigieg said. “To me, the way to get everybody health care is one that still allows you to have private plans if you want. And I think the more people discover that (Warren’s) vision and Senator Sanders’ vision takes that away from you, the more trouble we’re gonna have.”
Similarly, while many in the Democratic field continue assailing the Trump administration, Buttigieg is smartly looking beyond the “disasters of Donald” to what the nation will need to forever mark the current presidency as an unfortunate and temporary misstep.
“We need to heal. I’m thinking about what it’s going to be like the first day after the Trump presidency. I ask voters to really picture this, and not just enjoy and savor the idea of ‘Thank god he’s no longer in office!’” Buttigieg recently told David Axelrod.
“Not even for a day?” Axelrod interrupted.
“Maybe for half a day.” Buttigieg said with a wholesome grim, before continuing:
“But then really think of what we’re going to be up against at that point. None of these problems will have gone away, the problems that he exploited in order to become president. Meanwhile we’re going to be even more torn up by politics then we are now. We can enact very bold reforms and also do it in a way that can unify an American majority that’s with us on issue after issue.”
If Kentucky is an indicator, this is a formula that will work for Pete Buttigieg as it did this week for Beshear: focusing on pocketbook issues rather than the nation’s current nightmare, while positioning himself as a leader who can unify through practical steps, instead of seismic shifts.