What Is Going On in Kentucky?

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AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

In 2019, when Democrat Andy Beshear defeated incumbent Republican Matt Bevin by the slimmest of margins in the Kentucky gubernatorial race, the mainstream media tripped over themselves pushing the narrative that the deep red state of Kentucky had been flipped and was now turning blue.

A thorough examination of the facts, however, proved otherwise. Beshear had won by a mere 0.4 points, while all of the other five statewide elections were won by Republicans—four of them by double digits. Kentucky was no more becoming a blue state than Massachusetts was becoming a red state when it elected and reelected Republican Charlie Baker as governor. Bevin was simply one of the least popular governors of the country, and many Kentucky Republicans simply didn’t vote for him. 

But there was no reason to believe Beshear would ever get reelected. However, for some time now, polls have shown Beshear with a substantial lead over Republican Daniel Cameron. Beshear barely managed to eke out a victory in 2019, so it was impossible to understand how polls showed Beshear up by healthy margins. A January poll from Mason-Dixon had Beshear up 9 points, and an Emerson poll from a month ago had him up 16 points. 

It made no sense. Beshear hasn’t exactly demonstrated himself to be a moderate Democrat who can siphon off a significant number of Republican votes. In fact, the state legislature has overridden many Beshear vetoes, including legislation banning gender transitions for minors and a 15-week abortion ban.

How was it possible that Beshear, whose values clearly don’t reflect the voters of the state, could be ahead in the polls, particularly by double digits? 

Well, it appears that things have changed. The latest Emerson College poll shows the race neck and neck. It’s within the poll’s margin of error, but it’s still quite a change from the poll a month ago showing Beshear up 16 points. What explains the shift? Has there been a major swing in favor of Cameron? Obviously that must be a factor. Was the previous poll an outlier? That could be it too. The previous poll’s sample was 450 registered voters, while the latest poll is 1000 likely voters. Perhaps the biggest factor is that Republican voters are finally coalescing behind Cameron. 

“Cameron appears to have gained ground by consolidating Republican voters who supported former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, said. “In October, 54% of Trump supporters supported Cameron; now, as election day approaches, that number has jumped to 79% – a 25-point increase. Notably, October’s poll was of registered voters in Kentucky, while this final election poll includes only those who are very likely or have already voted in Kentucky.”

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Clearly, momentum is on Cameron’s side, and that could make the difference on Tuesday. 

“Even before the new poll from Emerson College came out Friday morning, the ground was shifting in Daniel Cameron’s favor across the state in the Republican Kentucky attorney general’s race against incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) for the state’s highest office,” Salena Zito wrote at the Washington Examiner.

Hopefully, it will be enough for Cameron to emerge victorious.

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