WVXU political reporter Howard Wilkinson sees the 2015 Kentucky Governor's race as very close if not favoring Republican Matt Bevin.
It’s rather amazing, really, since over the past 44 years only one Republican, Ernie Fletcher, has held the governor’s office in Kentucky; and Fletcher, whose administration was plagued with scandal, was knocked off by the incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear, who is term-limited out this year.
And Bevin, who ran for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination against Sen. Mitch McConnell and was squashed like a bug, barely squeaked out of this year’s four-candidate GOP gubernatorial primary with an 83-vote win over James Comer, out of about 214,000 votes cast.
But, in fact, it’s the only really competitive gubernatorial race in the country, in a year when most of the political junkies around the country are deeply fixated on the 2016 presidential election.
There really hasn’t been much polling in the race lately. At the end of July, the Bluegrass Poll, conducted for Kentucky’s two largest newspapers and two prominent TV stations, showed Conway up by a slim three percentage points. On June 23, Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm, had Bevin up by two percentage points.
But some time ago, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a weekly politics newsletter published by Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, moved the Kentucky governor’s race from the “toss-up” category to “leans Republican.”
“Both national party committees see Kentucky as a winnable race,’’ said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst who is managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
Bevin, Kondik said, “is not really a great candidate; and it may be a question of how much of his own money he is willing to spend on this.
“But President Obama is extremely unpopular in Kentucky; and you have the Trump phenomenon going on in the Republican presidential race,’’ Kondik said “It’s a sign of how nationalized politics has gotten even in state races.
So this move by the Republican Governor's Association makes no sense whatsoever.
The Republican Governor's Association has stopped running TV ads for Matt Bevin with a little more than a month to go in Kentucky's competitive governor's race.
The association has spent $3 million on six ads for Bevin, mostly attacking his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, for supporting the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama. But with two other governor's races this fall RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said the group is "re-evaluating what is best for us to do."
"We continually re-evaluate what role the RGA plays of how helpful we can be," Thompson said, adding the decision does not mean the group has lost faith in Bevin's chances of winning. He said the group could go back on the air before November.
The move is a big blow for Bevin, who has aired just one TV ad of his own after spending more than $1 million of his personal fortune to win a four-way Republican primary in May. And it comes one week after Conway began airing a series of TV ads titled "In his own words" that splice together clips of Bevin contradicting himself on issues including education, agriculture, taxes and health care.
Whenever Conway aired a new ad over the summer, the RGA would usually respond. But not this time. Thompson said the move is normal given "multiple governor's races" the group has to plan for. But the only other races on the calendar this year are in Mississippi and Louisiana. The association has not spent money in those states yet, although Thompson said the group is likely to begin airing ads in the Louisiana governor's race.
If Bevin's winning, or this race is close, why not put Conway away? There's only 2 other governor's races on the ballot this year, Mississippi and Louisiana. Bobby Jindal is term limited and the real race for Louisiana won't be until late November as there's a runoff expected, and Phil Bryant isn't in any danger of losing in Mississippi. The RGA hasn't spent a dime in those states, and after the GOP picked up governor's seats in states like Maryland (Larry Hogan) and Illinois (Bruce Rauner) in 2014, the RGA is pretty powerful. Plus, getting a win in Kentucky would be a massive boost, all but assuring that the GOP could shut down the most successful state insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion in the country.
So it makes no sense to stop now unless Bevin is leading massively, or he's losing. If he's winning, why not release your numbers showing him winning handily?
No, something's badly wrong in Bevintown. Maybe Conway can pull this out after all.
So why leave Bevin high and dry now, six weeks before the election?