Dead Heat in Race for Kentucky Governor, Poll Shows

(CN) – The race to decide who will be the next governor of Kentucky is neck-and-neck, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks in the Capitol building in Frankfort on Feb. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)

Republican Governor Matt Bevin overturned an 8-point deficit from the beginning of the year to draw even with Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat. The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, found that the Republican and Democratic both have the backing of 46% of likely voters, while 7% are undecided.

While a majority of Kentucky voters still disapprove of Bevin’s job performance, the governor’s ratings have ticked upward from 38% to 45%. He seems to have benefited from a resurgence in Republican support, up from 67% in December to 77%.

Bevin’s campaign has taken a strong stance against abortion and immigration. Beshear, meanwhile, has staked his ground on improving the state education system and teachers’ pensions.

Bevin succeeded his challenger’s father, Steve Beshear, also a Democrat, who was governor for eight years until 2015.

Kentucky attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear greets residents at Sayre Christina Village Senior Living Center in Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)

President Donald Trump endorsed Bevin and has reportedly told the governor he will visit the day before the Nov. 5 gubernatorial election.

In the same poll, 57% approve of the president’s job performance in a state where he won by almost 30 percentage points in 2016. Most Kentuckians disapprove of efforts to impeach and to remove the president from office. Of those polled, 65% disapprove, 29% support impeachment and removal, and 6% are undecided.

While 55% of respondents have a favorable opinion of Trump, only 36% have a favorable view of Bevin. On that count, Beshear beat the governor by one point, with 37% having a favorable opinion of the attorney general. Bevin, whose combative style is known to irk voters, is the least popular governor in the country, according to the Morning Consult.

Bevin’s support is most robust in the rural region of Eastern Kentucky, according to the poll, while Beshear polled strongest in the Louisville metropolitan area. Bevin is a better prospect for the men and older voters surveyed, while Beshear registered more support among women and younger voters.

Al Cross, a political columnist and professor at the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, said Bevin has recently been pressing Beshear on illegal immigration and abortion. There is only one abortion clinic in the state, and the incumbent has pushed for a law that would ban so-called sanctuary cities.

“Those are pretty powerful issues in a state that has a very white electorate and is very socially conservative,” Cross said in a telephone interview.

In contrast, Beshear has sought to capitalize on Bevin’s unpopularity.

“His basic campaign issue is that ‘I’m not Matt Bevin,’” Cross said.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, which FiveThirtyEight gives a B+ polling rating, interviewed 635 registered Kentucky voters by landline and cellphone, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Bevin’s campaign manager Davis Paine said the momentum is now with the governor. He accused Beshear of being “nowhere to be found as his party marches toward impeachment.”

“It’s no surprise Kentuckians are rejecting a liberal like Andy who opposes President Trump,” Paine wrote in an email.

Beshear’s campaign did not immediately respond to an interview requests Wednesday.

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