Can Gov. Andy Beshear, a moderate Democrat, get reelected by focusing on leadership, unity and a booming economy?
Or will Republican Attorney Gen. Daniel Cameron, a hard-right, take-no-prisoners MAGA culture warrior, win by demonizing the guy whose job he wants?
Team Beshear is touting a brand new Public Policy Polling survey that has the gov up 49-41. “More than one in five Republicans currently prefer Beshear over Cameron,” says a news release from campaign manager Eric Hyers.
PPP is affiliated with the Democratic party. But polling guru Nate Silver's go-to FiveThirtyEight website rates PPP an A-minus.
The release, emailed to “interested parties,” says that “after three months of gross ads, Kentucky voters are telling Daniel Cameron what they think of his disgraceful and empty campaign for governor. Andy Beshear will continue to talk about creating jobs, supporting public schools and rebuilding our infrastructure while Daniel Cameron pits Kentuckians against each other with mean-spirited, divisive attacks.”
The release includes a link to the poll's toplines.
But the release crunches the main numbers: “Notably, Daniel Cameron is now rated unfavorably by a plurality of Kentucky voters, while Andy Beshear earns a 58% job approval and a 56% favorability rating. Andy’s brand continues to be popular in Kentucky, running nearly thirty points ahead of the president on job approval. It is clear that Andy’s compassionate and effective response to devastating natural disasters, as well as his work to bring historic economic development to Kentucky is resonating with voters.”
While Kentucky is the Bluegrass State, it’s deeply hued Republican Red. Even so, the poll seems to buttress the notion that the race is the popular Beshear’s to lose.
However, pandering on social issues like the old standbys — God, guns, gays, and abortion, and bashing “wokeness” and trans-gender folks of late — still resonates in mostly rural Kentucky. From Jordan to Jenkins, voters are overwhelmingly white, conservative, and reliably Republican. Many are of the “Jesus-is-my-savior-Trump-is-my-president” persuasion.
Bill Straub, a Northern Kentucky Tribune columnist, wonders if Team Cameron has polling that “tells them that the social issues still move voters.”
Added Straub, a veteran Frankfort and Washington journalist and Kentucky Journalism Hall of Famer: “[Republicans] are not interested in talking about the economy because Beshear’s been pretty successful in that regard, so there’s really not a whole lot they can say about it. But boy, there’s a whole lot they say about trans kids, abortion, and things like that.”
Cameron, endorsed by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, pounded on the social issues in his speech at Fancy Farm. He charged that Beshear coddles “woke radicals” and schmoozes “with anti-Christian hate groups.”
Beshear, a deacon at Beargrass Christian Church in Louisville, emphasized his leadership in shepherding Kentucky through deadly and destructive tornadoes and flood emergencies. He also pointed to “record economic development in western Kentucky” and “our lowest annual unemployment rate in history.”
When he was elected four years ago, Cameron clung to Trump like grim death and never missed a chance to burnish his MAGA creds. But on the Fancy Farm stump, the entire Republican ticket didn’t even mention the twice-impeached, thrice-indicted former president who’s itching for a rematch with Joe Biden.
Straub doubts the GOP bromance with Trump is on the rocks. (He’s still way ahead in polls for the Republican presidential nomination.) “The Republicans didn't mention Trump because McConnell was there,” he said. “They didn't want to say how great Trump is with McConnell sitting up there.”
Away from the pavilion and the speaker’s stand, Trump loyalists waved big blue Trump flags. Many in the Republican crowd sported red Trump 2024 ball caps.
Al Cross, a former Louisville Courier-Journal columnist who is also a Journalism Hall of Fame member and NK Tribune pundit, wrote post-Fancy Farm that “Daniel Cameron is betting that culture will trump politics, as it often has in Kentucky, and that voters will change their minds about Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is running on his record as one of the nation’s most popular governors.”
He added, “In his five-minute speech, Cameron said ‘values’ four times, and made eight references to transgender people. That reflected Republicans’ legislative political strategy, sending Beshear veto-bait bills targeting transgenders; and the multi-million-dollar ad campaigns by the two outside political committees supporting Cameron.”
Straub called Cameron’s attack line “grotesque – this whole thing about sex-change operations, you’re talking about these poor kids at wit’s end anyway. It’s just ridiculous.”
Cross, a Louisville Courier-Journal columnist for many years, wrote that “the biggest X factor in the race” is “national politics as defined by Donald Trump, who has made Kentucky a very red state, the major exceptions being Beshear and his father Steve, a two-term governor.”
Though Cameron is Trump-anointed, the AG “won’t answer questions about Trump’s latest indictment,” Cross reminded his readers. He concluded his musing by posing twin $64,000 (I'm showing my age) questions: “Can the state’s chief law-enforcement officer really hold the moral high ground while he is embraced by Trump? Or does Trump still trump when voters vote?”
Those spot-on queries won’t be definitively answered until after the polls close on November 7, just 86 days from now.