Kentucky Race Leans to GOP

Posted October 29, 2008 at 6:42pm

Democrats have tried to paint the Bluegrass State blue this cycle.

But a new poll indicates that their efforts may be falling short in Kentucky’s 2nd district, where a Republican-held open seat is being hotly contested.

A new poll conducted for Roll Call and WHAS-TV in Louisville showed state Sen. Brett Guthrie (R) holding a 10-point lead over state Sen. David Boswell (D). In the automated SurveyUSA poll taken Monday and Tuesday, 53 percent of voters indicated they would vote for Guthrie, compared with 43 percent for Boswell.

Guthrie led Boswell in every age group except among seniors, where the two candidates were tied. The survey of 587 likely voters had a 4-point error margin.

The Bowling Green-based 2nd district, represented for eight terms by retiring Rep. Ron Lewis (R), voted overwhelmingly for President Bush in 2000 and 2004, and the poll showed in several ways in which Guthrie has the advantage heading into Election Day.

Although the district has more enrolled Democrats than Republicans, they tend to be very conservative. And unlike other conservative districts in the South where Democrats are making a play, the 2nd district does not have a significant African-American population to bolster the Democrats’ chances.

Thirty-nine percent of 2nd district voters said they approved of Bush’s job performance — a significantly higher number than his national approval rating of 25 percent. And in a presidential trial heat, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) led Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) 62 percent to 35 percent in the district.

In another indication of the Republican leanings among voters in the district, six in 10 had a favorable view of the exiting Lewis — even though the Congressman unsuccessfully maneuvered to ensure that his chief of staff would succeed him in office. Three-quarters of the voters who had a favorable opinion of Lewis said they would vote for Guthrie, who has represented the Bowling Green area in the state Senate since 1998.

Thirty-one percent of Democratic voters in the district signaled they would vote for the Republican Congressional candidate on Election Day. Asked which party would do a better job of handling the economy, 53 percent of the poll respondents said the Republicans, compared with 41 percent for the Democrats. That’s the opposite of national polling trends.

Once Lewis announced his retirement plans, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee saw a pickup opportunity in the 2nd district and added Boswell to its “Red to Blue” fundraising and infrastructure program in September.

Through Oct. 23, the DCCC had poured $816,000 into the district, but Boswell has not proved an able fundraiser compared to Guthrie. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) headlined an event in the district earlier this week to help the Democratic underdog. Guthrie has raised $1.1 million this cycle, compared with $675,000 for Boswell.

The DCCC also released an internal poll this week that showed Boswell leading Guthrie 47 percent to 41 percent.

The National Republican Congressional Committee recruited Guthrie after Lewis announced in January that he was stepping down. Lewis attempted to anoint a longtime aide as his successor, but the Republican establishment — including both Kentucky Senators — backed Guthrie’s bid.

Lewis had his closest re-election race last cycle, taking 55 percent of the vote.