Kentucky’s Democratic upset is proof public opinion matters– and could be Cornyn’s downfall

by | Nov 6, 2019 | 2020 Elections, Politics

In a hotly discussed upset that came out of Kentucky on Tuesday, Democrat candidate Andy Beshear bested Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin.

Observers say the flipped governorship was the result of a mix between a deeply unpopular governor (Bevin had the lowest approval rating of any governor in the country at a dismal 37 percent) and a galvanized Democratic base that showed up big on election day.

The Kentucky race is proof that Trump’s endorsements don’t move mountains, and that public approval of politicians still matters. If you ignore your state, voters will fire you. 

Those conditions– a mobilized Democratic base and an unpopular elected official– are the same ones being faced by Sen. John Cornyn in 2020, a fact that was not lost on the Texas Democratic Party as it reacted to the good news outside the state on Election Day. 

“Trump Republicans are dropping like flies. First, went Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Next, will be John Cornyn,” Texas Democrats said in a press release, highlighting polls that showed Cornyn averaged an approval rating between 25 and 37 percent in the last four Texas Tribune polls.

That’s an unflattering level of popularity for someone who has been in Texas politics for three decades. 

Things look even worse for Cornyn when examining his record on some of the bipartisan issues Texans care most about. Cornyn has long voted against universal background checks for firearms, something repeated polling has shown almost 9 out of 10 Texans support. After the dual mass shootings of horrific proportions, Cornyn still didn’t put forth gun safety legislation.

Back when the Trump administration still pretended to care about healthcare, Cornyn joined his Republican colleagues in pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. The majority of Texans don’t like that. They also don’t like that prescription drug prices are sky high. 

Come 2020, Cornyn will have to do more than depend on Trump’s blessings to win another term in office. The three-term Senator will have to campaign off his own record and tenure, and once Texans actually figure out who Cornyn is, they might realize there’s little there and deliver another Kentucky-style upset. | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at

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