The Campaign Spot

Can the GOP Nationalize Kentucky’s Governor’s Race?

In Kentucky, David Williams won the GOP gubernatorial primary, as expected. He’ll take on incumbent Democrat Gov. Steve Beshear, who held a healthy lead in polls of the hypothetical match-up back in April. As we’ve seen in many other Southern, conservative-leaning states, the GOP effort will try to tie the Democrat to President Obama, although there’s an interesting wrinkle in this race: Williams argues that Beshear has distanced himself from the president so much, he’s done it at inappropriate times:

Though Williams said it is no surprise he will not support Democratic President Barack Obama for re-election next year, he said Beshear was wrong earlier this month when he did not go to Fort Campbell to honor soldiers with the president.

Williams said he would have “stood side by side” with Obama “to honor the troops.”

There are four governor’s races this fall, but West Virginia looks like a steep climb for Republicans, Mississippi looks like safe ground for the GOP, and in Louisiana, Democrats are still looking for a candidate to take on incumbent Bobby Jindal. So Kentucky may be the premiere fight this November:

Though Democrats outnumber Republicans 1.63 million to 1.08 million in Kentucky, Democratic political consultant Danny Briscoe thinks the race will be “close, competitive and the most expensive ever.”

He said both candidates will have sufficient campaign funds to get out their messages.

The race will be close because Kentucky is “Republican in attitude,” Briscoe said, noting that Republicans hold both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats and four of six U.S. House seats.

Expect to see the entire federal Republican delegation campaign for Williams, Briscoe said.

The race may see $15 million to $20 million spent, Briscoe said, noting that various groups will be interested in it since it is one of only four governor races in the nation this fall.

UPDATE: A Washington Republican watching this race closely tells me, “Kentucky’s employment rate is the sixth-worst in the nation and worse than all its neighbors, including hard-hit Ohio. Last month it was tied with Michigan. Worst of all, Kentucky doesn’t seem to be recovering at the pace of its neighboring states. Beshear has some strong ties to Obama – strong proponent of the stimulus, supported Obamacare and has even sided with Obama on some regulation of coal and energy production, all of which can be tied back to jobs and pocketbook issues.”

Is this race is comparable to the 2009 off-year gubernatorial races? The New Jersey race also featured a Democrat incumbent, but incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine entered his reelection campaign widely disliked on a scale that just doesn’t apply to Beshear. However, Bob McDonnell did manage to ride an anti-Washington, anti-tax, anti-spending mood to his big win over Creigh Deeds, so there may be some parallels there…


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