Toss Up for Governor in Kentucky

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s first poll of the general election for Governor in Kentucky finds a toss up race. Republican Matt Bevin gets 38% to 35% for Democrat Jack Conway, with independent Drew Curtis getting 6%. In a two person race with Curtis taken out of the mix, Bevin’s lead over Conway is 40/38.

More than 20% of voters are undecided and that’s a function of neither candidate being particularly well known. Even after a pair of terms as Attorney General, a 35% plurality of voters in Kentucky have no opinion about Conway with those who do have one pretty evenly divided on him- 31% see him favorably and 34% unfavorably. Bevin is even less well known to voters in the state- 40% have no opinion about him. Among those who do have one, 31% see him favorably and 28% unfavorably.

Republicans have the advantage in all the down ballot races in the state. Interestingly the contest with the lowest level of undecideds, even more so than the one for Governor, is Secretary of State where Republican Steve Knipper leads Democratic incumbent Alison Lundergan Grimes 47/42- that seems to suggest some strong residual feelings from the Senate race last year. 

The rest of the races feature the GOP nominees leading as well, but only at 39-41% and with anywhere from 23-29% of voters still undecided. The closest is for Attorney General where Whitney Westerfield has a 5 point advantage over Andy Beshear at 41/36. Mike Harmon leads incumbent Auditor Adam Edelen 39/33. In the open races for Treasurer and Agriculture Commissioner the Republican leads each by 9- it’s 41/32 for Allison Ball over Rick Nelson and 40/31 for Ryan Quarles over Jean-Marie Lawson Spann. 

Kentucky voters are pretty evenly divided in their feelings about Rand Paul- 43% approve of the job he’s doing to 42% who disapprove. Nevertheless he is looking like a pretty strong favorite if he runs for reelection to the Senate next year. He would lead hypothetical match ups over both Steve Beshear (49/39) and Crit Luallen (51/37). What’s particularly notable about the match up with Beshear is that he is the state’s most popular politician- he matches Paul’s 43% approval rating, but only 35% of voters disapprove of him. Yet he still trails Paul by 10- it says something about the difficulties for Democrats in national elections in Kentucky. 

If Paul were to somehow win the Republican nomination we do find that hypothetical match ups for Beshear and Luallen with Thomas Massie as an alternative GOP candidate would start out as toss ups. Beshear leads Massie 43/38 while Massie leads Luallen 37/35. A lot of that potential competitiveness for Democrats may tie back to Massie only having 27% name recognition though.

Despite his easy reelection last fall, Mitch McConnell continues to be quite unpopular with only 32% of voters approving of the job he’s doing to 54% who disapprove. Republicans (47/37) only narrowly approve of the job McConnell is doing and he’s in the 20s for approval with both Democrats and independents. How did he win anyway? Barack Obama’s 33/60 approval in the state trumped McConnell’s unpopularity among the many voters in the state who dislike both of them.

Full results here

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