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Trump and his allies downplay GOP loss in Kentucky governor's race

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTariffs threaten 1.5m jobs: Study Trump says he'll meet with dictators if it helps the US Barr to launch anti-gun violence initiative during public impeachment hearing MORE and his allies are racing to distance themselves from Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) after he was defeated by Democrat Andy Beshear in the state’s gubernatorial election on Tuesday.

Republicans immediately went on defense following Bevin’s loss, eager to prove that it has no bearing on the president’s own support in Kentucky or his ability to lift GOP candidates nationwide. 

Trump himself chimed in late Tuesday night, pointing out that Republicans won five out of six statewide races in Kentucky, even as Bevin fell to Beshear, the state's attorney general. Indeed, he tweeted, Bevin gained “at least 15 points” in the final days of the governor’s race after he campaigned for the governor in Lexington.

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Bevin has yet to concede the race. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear leads his Republican opponent by just more than 5,000 votes, a margin of less than half a percentage point.

The storyline that emerged from Trump’s supporters in the hours after Bevin’s apparent defeat centered on the notion that the Kentucky governor headed into his reelection bid at a strong disadvantage. They argued that Trump’s last-ditch effort to rescue Bevin’s campaign helped narrow the gap between him and Beshear.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, tweeted that Bevin was trailing Beshear by 17 points, at one point – a reference to internal RNC data from earlier in the year, a spokesperson for the committee said. Trump helped buoy the entire Republican ticket, she said.

Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, Trump’s campaign manager, was more blunt in his assessment of the Kentucky governor’s race, saying "the President just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line."

"The President just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end,” Parscale said in a statement Tuesday night. “A final outcome remains to be seen.”

Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayVaping advocates feel confident Trump will turn from flavor ban Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Krystal Ball praises former McConnell aide's historic win in Kentucky MORE, a counselor to the president, told reporters at the White House on Wednesday morning that the Kentucky governor’s race remained too close to call but that Bevin’s campaign was “investigating some irregularities in voting.”

Bevin first mentioned those unspecified irregularities in brief remarks on Tuesday night, though he did not provide any details or evidence for his claims.

Conway was quick to remind reporters that Trump won 62.5 percent of the vote in Kentucky in 2016, a share that no Republican on the ballot on Tuesday managed to match.

“This was always going to be a tough race,” she said. “The president won the vote in Kentucky, 62.5 percent of the vote in Kentucky when he ran. Nobody got even close to that yesterday.”

Trump and his allies’ effort to reject the narrative that Bevin’s loss could portend political trouble for Republicans in 2020 came as Democrats celebrated not only Beshear’s victory, but a successful effort to gain control of both chambers of Virginia’s state legislature for the first time in 26 years.

Bevin, who began his reelection campaign as one of the least popular governors in the country, worked aggressively to nationalize his race against Beshear, tying himself closely to Trump and casting Tuesday’s election as an opportunity for Kentucky to reject Democratic leadership broadly.

At the end of the night, however, the election results suggested that voters were more eager to reject Bevin than the Republican Party at large. Five other GOP candidates for statewide office in Kentucky won their races and notched a higher share of the vote than Bevin did.

Republicans also received good news in Mississippi, where Republican Tate Reeves scored a 5-point victory over Democrat Jim Hood in the state’s gubernatorial election.

In the hours after Beshear declared victory in Kentucky, Trump had already turned his attention to the next political fight of 2019: Louisiana’s gubernatorial runoff election on Nov. 16. 

“Will be in Louisiana for @EddieRispone on Wednesday night,” he tweeted, referring to the Republican candidate for governor, Eddie Rispone. “Big Rally!”

--Updated at 10:47 a.m.