Although Kentucky has elected only one Republican governor in the last four decades, Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin handily defeated Democrat Jack Conway yesterday:
The off-year election, one of many state and local contests held Tuesday across the country, was seen by some as a test for outsider candidates at a time when several such candidates are seeking the GOP presidential nomination. Bevin, who has run as an outsider ever since he unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Mitch McConnell last year, was declared the winner over state Attorney General Conway in the gubernatorial race shortly after polls closed Tuesday evening.
The victory comes as the GOP establishment continues to argue that only a moderate — one of their own — can win elections. The conservative base argues the opposite: only a real, principled conservative can defeat a liberal Democrat. A liberal Republican, they argue, is nothing more than “Democrat-lite,” and when people have a choice between the fake version and the real thing, they always choose the latter.
Bevin’s surprise win proves conservatives right. Conway is Kentucky’s attorney general and had the backing of a powerful political organization, but was brought down by a Tea Party-supported Republican. Just one ingredient decided this race: passion. Bevin’s own, and that of the conservative grassroots.
The GOP establishment should learn from this historic win: nominate a real, principled conservative who can excite the grassroots, or lose. There are no other options.