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Kentucky Governor Race Tilts Toward Democrats

Bevin, shown here during his 2014 Senate campaign, has underwhelmed some Republican strategists in his run for governor. (File Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

With just weeks to go before the Nov. 3 election, Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway has a narrow advantage over Republican Matt Bevin in the Kentucky governor race.  

The race certainly isn’t over, and public polling has the two candidates virtually running even. But Bevin’s personal ratings have declined in the face of Democratic attacks, while Conway’s image has consistently been in better shape.  

Conway and Democratic allies have been outspending Bevin by up to a 4-1 margin at some points, particularly after the Republican Governors Association stopped airing ads a couple of weeks ago. For example, in the Lexington media market over Columbus Day weekend, there were 161 television ads against Bevin compared to just 53 on the Republicans behalf, according to a source tracking the race.  

Even though Kentucky is a takeover opportunity, the RGA hasn’t shown much of an appetite to get involved. Some GOP strategists have been underwhelmed by Bevin’s campaign and commitment to the race, whether it be fundraising or spending money from his own wallet.  

He hasn’t built much of a rapport with sitting governors who could influence the RGA’s involvement in the race. And Bevin continues to struggle with the local GOP establishment after challenging Mitch McConnell in last year’s Senate primary.  

Kentucky has largely transitioned to a Republican state, which is keeping Bevin in the game. But the Republican would need the vast majority of undecided voters to suddenly swing in his direction. That scenario is possible, but less likely in light of Democrats’ tremendous advantage in ad spending.  

In the end, Obama’s terrible job approval rating in the state could hand Bevin the governorship in spite of himself. But the president’s unpopularity isn’t exactly an October surprise. It’s been a constant factor for years. A Bevin win wouldn’t be surprising, but calling the race a pure Tossup doesn’t exactly fit the Republican’s challenge in the homestretch. We’re changing the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating to Tossup/Tilts Democratic .

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Democrats Could Sink Lower in Statehouses in 2016

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