Kentucky Republicans: Worse Off than We Thought?
by Jonathan Singer, Sun May 27, 2007 at 05:38:28 PM EDT
Earlier in the month I took a look at the political environment in Ohio, concluding from leading indicators like partisan self-identification in polling and results from the 2006 midterms that the state may be turning blue at a far faster rate than we had previously assumed. Interestingly, the same situation might be happening just to the South of Ohio in Kentucky.
Like Ohio, Kentucky has had a widely and wildly unpopular Republican Governor in recent years who, racked by scandal, has begun to bring his party down in his state. And just as Bob Taft's poor standing within the electorate in Ohio helped lead the GOP to disastrous results in 2006 -- losing the governorship, one seat in the Senate, one seat in the House and a number of state legislative seats -- so too might Ernie Fletcher's problems in Kentucky bring about a sea change in the state.
The current polling for Fletcher, who was able to escape defeat in the the Republican gubernatorial primary this past week, does not look good. According to the latest SurveyUSA poll commissioned by WCPO-TV in Cincinnati and WHAS-TV in Louisville shows the Democratic ticket of Steve Beshear and Dan Mongiardo crushing -- and I do mean crushing -- the Republican ticket of Fletcher and Robbie Rudolph by a 62 percent to 34 percent margin. Do remember that Taft, whose approval rating of 18 percent just before the election was fully 20 points lower than that of Fletcher today but his heir apparent Ken Blackwell was at least able to manage to receive 37 percent of the vote in November.
And do not think that a 30- or 20- or even 15-point loss by the incumbent Republican Governor of a state would not have an effect upon the reelection hopes of a Republican Senator running for reelection one year later. Yet Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may have to undergo this exact situation this cycle. Polling already shows that he might not be able to beat one of his potential Democratic challengers, so the fact that more than a third of Republican voters in Kentucky appear willing to abandon their gubernatorial nominee in favor of the Democratic nominee shouldn't instill much confidence within McConnell -- particularly since there is already talk of a primary challenge being mounted against him.
Democrats not only have an opportunity to give McConnell a scare (at the least) in 2008, they also might have a chance to pick up one or two more seats in the House from a state in which they had already picked up a seat during the previous cycle. Though most of the Kentucky districts currently held by Republicans have decided Republican tilts, two Republican Congressmen -- Ron Lewis and Geoff Davis -- both received 55 percent of the vote in 2006 or less, putting them at least on the radar of the folks trying to extend the Democratic majority in the lower chamber of Congress.
Much will be seen when Kentuckians go to the polls this November to decide if they will keep Fletcher or throw him out. But it's very possible that Fletcher might not only lose in his bid for another term but could be such an albatross for his party that it's difficult for any Republican -- maybe even McConnell included -- to win in the near future.
[Just to note: I'm at a family reunion in Florida and am not able to access the internet as well or as frequently as I had hoped -- apparently my MacBook Pro and my wireless broadband card from ATT/Cingular don't like each other as much as they really should. Anyone else having this problem? (The MacBook/wireless broadband, not the family reunion, that is.)]