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Donald Trump's impact on Kentucky's political landscape

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jan 19, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Tuesday marks President Donald Trump's final full day in office.

A term that included accomplishments he highlighted in his final address as president, but also two impeachments, the second coming after the riot inside the US Capitol.

While a majority of Americans picked Joe Biden to lead the country for the next four years, we had a discussion with LEX 18 Political Analyst Bob Babbage about the impact Trump has made on the political landscape in Kentucky.

To see the full scope, you need to go back to Election Night 2016.

On the top of the ballot: Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton. Senator Rand Paul's seat was also at stake, along with all US Congressional races and every Kentucky state House seat.That ended up being a good night for then-Governor Matt Bevin and the Kentucky GOP.

"And indeed tonight, the roar tonight has been delivered by the voters of the Commonwealth of Kentucky," said Bevin on Election Night 2016.

For the first time in nearly a century, Republicans took the state House. Democrat Greg Stumbo not only lost his position as House Speaker, he failed to win re-election as a state representative.

LEX 18 Political Analyst Bob Babbage says the top of the ticket helped drive that momentum.

"What's changed under Trump that you have to acknowledge is the trend of Kentucky going red," said Babbage.

Babbage's team reports that since Election Night 2016, Republicans have earned gains in the state House of 12.5% in central Kentucky, 26% in western Kentucky, and 25% in eastern Kentucky.

It's not just the makeup of the state legislature that's changed.

"Kentucky voter registration has changed to where in 2022, you could reasonably predict we'll have 45% Republican, 45% Democrat," said Babbage.

Babbage pointed out other factors over the past four years, including the successful re-elections for Senators Paul and Mitch McConnell. Despite a competitive 2018 race, Congressman Andy Barr has held his seat in what's considered a purple district.

But he says the Trump factor can't be ignored in Frankfort.

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In four years, the GOP has gone from the House minority to a supermajority. Meanwhile, Democrat legislative presence is reduced to mostly Louisville and Lexington, with just little pockets in the east and west. Those are areas formerly dominated by Democrats.