Kentucky Republicans: Worse Off than We Thought?

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.)]

Tags: Governor 2007, Kentucky, KY-Gov, KY-Sen, Republicans, Senate 2008 (all tags)



2006 = Warmup - 2008 = Republican Annihilation

I think Kentucky will be interesting to see.  Just as I'm going to be watching house races in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Deleware, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Florida, New York, Conneticut, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Michigan, Alaska, and California.  

Fletcher is much worse off than McConnel as of right now.  He is tainted by scandal and he isn't as popular state-wide (If I have it down correctly)  Fletcher will be much easier to take down, which is why when we beat him, it can't just be a 53-47.  We have to utterly humiliate Fletcher in a big win in order to scare McConnell and show him the political landscape for 2008.  

Something that's encouraging.  On a conservative blog, 92% of the people said if the bipartisan immigration reform passes, McConnel should leave his leadership post.  They are losing motivation over him.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-27 06:02PM | 0 recs
make being Republican leader

be a hindrance for McConnell.

This will make McConnell's successor even weaker on partisan issues.

by Carl Nyberg 2007-05-27 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: 2006 = Warmup - 2008 = Republican Annihilation

Sure, but I don't think there's ever been a large scale conservative revolt against their leaders. They hate immigration reform, but they hate Roe vs. Wade, and that's still there.

They're all talk and faced with a more liberal opponent or a more conservative opponent who cannot win, almost all of them will vote for the Republican instead.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-28 04:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Kenucky Republicans: Worse Off

On election night I noticed that the break down of the polls showed a noticeably larger number of registered Democrats than Republicans, yet both Senators from Kentucky are Republicans and the current governor is Repub. Why is that?

by Kingstongirl 2007-05-27 06:26PM | 0 recs
The story of the South

There are lots of Zell Miller types. Just look at the percentage of self-identified liberals vs conservatives.

by andgarden 2007-05-27 07:10PM | 0 recs
Zell Miller in his later years

was suffering from a mental health condition, IMO.

by Carl Nyberg 2007-05-27 07:16PM | 0 recs
He's still with us. . .

No one seems to have a really good answer as to what happened. Your guess is at least as good as mine.

In any case, where he is now is where many southern Democrats have always been, as Strom Thurmond proved.

by andgarden 2007-05-27 07:19PM | 0 recs
Re: He's still with us. . .

Interestingly, one of my Poli Sci instructors was once a Senate staffer for Bob Graham, and she had a chance to meet Zell on a few occasions--and pitied anyone who had to work with him. Apparently, he would sit at his desk in the chamber or his office and barely move, just sit there and be menacingly silent. Then he'd get up to speak and just EXPLODE! Strangely, those that remember when he was GA governor did not recall this behavior and were equally perplexed by it. I think he suffered a stroke or something between his retirement from the governorship in '98 and his senate appointment in 2000.

by elessar 2007-05-29 05:26AM | 0 recs
Good point about self-identified numbers

That's where I like to focus. It's very clear cut. In 2000 and 2004, Gore/Kerry won every state with at least 24% self-identified liberals in the statewide exit poll, and Bush won every state with at least 35% self-identified conservatives.

When neither digit is reached, that's a swing state. Of course, that's in a 50/50 electorate. If 2008 features a significant Democratic slant it will probably yank some states into our column even if they have 35+% conservatives.

I'm not as confident in Kentucky tilting our way as Ohio. Not enough large cities in Kentucky, only two above 100,000. I think Ohio has six.

by Gary Kilbride 2007-05-27 08:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Good point about self-identified numbers

Kentucky vs Ohio:

on the other hand, Kentucky's a pretty rural-voter state, and my hunch is that they're proving more flexible in their partisanship, and more swingy generally, than the suburbanites.

Like in the OH-02, where we won the rural counties with huge gains in our performance, but lost the suburban counties and didn't even really move our numbers that much, even though the GOP candidate had changed from Portman to Schmidt, and our candidate had changed from a sacrificial lamb to a real challenger.  The actual content of the campaign and the candidates didn't move the numbers much in suburban territory, but did in rural territory.

Anyway, I never did a numeric analysis of that, nor have I formally considered other case studies, but my hunch is that rural electorates have some promising qualities to them that large suburban electorates don't.  So Kentucky being rural might be a plus, not a minus.

by texas dem 2007-05-28 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Kenucky Republicans: Worse Off

It's due to historical reasons. I think most southern states still have more registered Democrats than Republicans, but it usually doesn't effect how they vote in the end.

The significance in Kentucky of the Republican voters who are registered Democrat is that it creates, to paraphrase Howard Dean, a Republican wing of the Democratic Party.  

I think that explains how a DINO like Bruce Lunsford could be such a major competitor in the Democratic primary (though he did fade in the end).

by Adam T 2007-05-27 11:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Kenucky Republicans: Worse Off

A lot of southern states have a decided registration edge for Democrats but vote heavily Republican in Presidential races for the reasons mentioned above... namely because they dont associate themselves with Democrats like John Kerry. However, they do often vote Democratic on the local level and statewide offices.

by AC4508 2007-05-28 09:21AM | 0 recs
Chandler '08; Mongiardo '10

McConnell made defeating Russ Feingold his #1 priority in 1998 b/c of Feingold's support for campaign finance reform.

Feingold even imposed restrictions above and beyond the law. And McConnell went after him hard.

It's time for some payback against McConnell.

Dems should run Chandler in '08 and then Mongiardo in '10.

by Carl Nyberg 2007-05-27 06:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Chandler '08; Mongiardo '10

He has failed two times in a row.  Russ Feingold is still here.  :-)   Russ isn't going anywhere as long as he doesn't want to.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-27 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Chandler '08; Mongiardo '10
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by Glen 2007-05-27 09:44PM | 0 recs
Re:Kenucky Republicans: Worse Off than We Thought

My husband uses a wireless card from Verizon in his Mac Book Pro and says it works flawlessly.  Their data network is also much faster than AT&T's.  I hate to say it because I don't care much for them as a corporate citizen, but when it comes to getting online and moving data, Verizon really is better right now.  We've had better luck with AT&T for actual phone calls.  

As always, your mileage may vary.  So much of this stuff depends on the situation in your exact location.

by janiner 2007-05-27 06:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Kenucky Republicans: Worse Off than We Thought
  I'm on my farm with my macbook pro and att/cingular card and have the exact same problem.  Either my network settings are a problem or it searches for service though I'm in the same place every night.  It does seem to work well in the 3G networks though.  I just wish they'd get moving and extend those networks to rural areas.
  Anyhow, keep an eye on the bluegrass state b/c labor is bouncing back, dems have new leadership (both the party and our candidates) and you get the general sense that people are fed up with McConnell's GOP.  If we keep the momentum we'll take that SOB out.
by kentuckydave 2007-05-27 07:08PM | 0 recs
Glad to see Mongiardo on the ticket

I donated to his Senate bid and always suspected that the GOP stole that election for Bunning. The way his numbers were tanking toward the end, the outcome seemed suspicious.

by desmoinesdem 2007-05-27 07:26PM | 0 recs

Sprint and Verizon crush ATT and especially T-Mobile in broadband access. Cingular's 3G coverage is pathetic, it doesn't even cover all of NYC! I use a Sprint aircard exclusively for internet access. Unlimited MB for 49.99! Verizon isn't too bad either, but I dislike them as a company. Cingular/ATT has a wonderful (the best) wireless network here in DE, but Sprint rules data (with a decent voice network). T-mobile has no 3G anywhere!

I hope we take out McConnell, he seems like such a mealy-mouth typical politician. Doesn't seem very inspiring.

by Airb330 2007-05-27 07:39PM | 0 recs
Ducky like Kenucky

Kenucky or Kentucky? I think your title is missing a T.

by joejoejoe 2007-05-27 08:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Ducky like Kenucky

LOL, I noticed that too. And now all of the comments are "Re: Kenucky"

by bowiegeek 2007-05-28 10:55AM | 0 recs
Next House seat up, KY-01?

Democrats have worked hard for a turnaround in Kentucky.

But in KY-04, a 2006 comeback attempt by former Congressman Ken Lucas was a huge disappointment. PoliticalMoneyLine shows that the Democrats spent $4.1 million here. The Repubs sank $6.5 to hold the seat. I guess you can't complain too much about a race that made the Repubs burn money so much faster than our side. But OTOH, Oh Brother, if the DCCC would have spared, say, $100,000 for Larry Kissell over in N.C. Sorry, I digress.

Down in KY-01, former Congressman Tom Barlow ran again. He'd won once, in 1992, lost in 1994, tried a comeback in 1998. This year he spent $113,000 to lose with 40% of the vote. It's time to give someone else a shot. Maybe Gov. Beshear can find a nice office somewhere to occupy Barlow usefully.

Yet in 2006 Whitfield ran as if he were scared, spending over $1 million on his re-election. Maybe he was trying to pre-campaign to run in this year's statewide races, but that didn't pan out. Or polling revealed softness in a year when Bush's support was weakening and a Democratic tide was rising. Perhaps he spent it because he had it. He shows $680,000 Cash on Hand.

So a Repub incumbent spent a million, about 10 times the Democrat in the race, and only got 60% of the vote, down from 67% two years before.  (BTW In 2004, Ms. Northup got 60% of the vote.) If the Democrats put $4 million into KY-01 next time, instead of KY-04, we could have a good chance here as well.

The sprawling district would eat dollars in a conventional broadcast-media campaign. It stretches from the Mississippi River far to the east, and parts of it are in 6 or 8 TV markets, with Nashville taking the largest chunk. Not cheap to do at all.

Anyone thinking of running in a district like this should study how to do targeted advertising on cable TV.

by Woody 2007-05-27 08:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Next House seat up, KY-01?

I completely agree.  You bring up a good point.  The DCCC chooses to sponser candidates who can raise over a certain dollar number like 300,000$.  Some of these candidates are running on 50,000$ or less and coming much closer than some of the other Democratic challengers who spend a lot.  I think the blogosphere should sponser two or three house races that the DCCC leaves behind.  That way we can focus a large number of dollars at a few key house races.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-28 05:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Kenucky Republicans: Worse

Hmm, what's in the air in Ohio shows up in Kentucky ... maybe "trickle-down" is not such a bad political phrase after all.

by jukesgrrl 2007-05-27 09:37PM | 0 recs
Zell Miller?

I think Kentucky is a lot more complicated than to just say we're all Zell Miller Democrats.  Sure, we have a lot of moderate Dems in Kentucky, but the comparison to Zell Miller is over the top.  One of the reasons Kentucky drifted Republican was that the Democratic Party of recent times have taken the focus off poor people, economic fairness--all those big D Democrat issues that were so well-represented during the days of FDR and even LBJ.  Bobby Kennedy was the last big politician to spend any time in Appalachia and though we and our problems have been there since then, the Democratic Party has almost forgotten about us.  

At the same time, Republicans did just the opposite, they reached out to rural America, not in a way I would have liked, but for years, many Democrats in rural Kentucky felt like our party had left us.  

We'll see.  I keep voting Democratic every election and the election of populists like Jim Webb and Jon Tester give me hope the Democratic party may start looking at issues like economic fairness again.

I think with the recent primary win of Steve Beshear here and John Yarmuth's win over Bush lapdog, Anne Northup, there will be a rebuilding of the Democratic Party in Kentucky.

But you need to understand one thing.  I wish people would stop with this business of--oh, we lost the South over the Civil Rights Movement.  We may have lost some people who are long dead over the Civil rights movement, but those days are gone and that particular "truth" is dated.  We're a hell of lot more worried about jobs and medical care than the color of someones skin.  If Democrats want to win Kentucky back, you need to invest in our candidates and get that Zell Miller, Little Abner stereotype out of your head.  

Kentucky's coming back to the party.  I believe this to be true.  

by Nick Stump 2007-05-28 05:18PM | 0 recs
Didn't mean exactly like Zell

but the mentality is there. I'm comfortable with my understanding of the 1968 election, and I think it's pretty difficult to claim that the south didn't realign away from Democrats because of civil rights. It was a slow process that started in 1948 with Strom Thurmond's 3rd party run.

by andgarden 2007-05-28 05:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Didn't mean exactly like Zell

Come to Kentucky. I think you might have a different view with a visit.  Sure there are folks here like Zell Miller just like New York State.  The mentality you're talking about is everywhere in the country.

But Kentucky has been Democratic before and will be again. We've been as influenced by hard core UMW union worker as we have by the likes of Mitch McConnell, and in 2008 we will mount a strong challenge to Mitch and may very well send him home.  

We're gonna need money and help from our progressive brothers and sisters all over the country to achieve this feat, but beating Mitch is very doable and he's more likely to lose next time around than ever.  The Republican Party is split and he's even being challenged from his own party.  

It think progressives need to let go of the old stereotypes about Kentucky. They're repeated over and over in movies, tv--comedians, but we are not that ignorant, inbred, race-baiting state.  We are better, deeper and more sophisticated and that's something people who don't live here need to learn.

In 1968 a good part of the south did get angry over the Civil Rights Movement, but that was 1968 and it's now 2007.  On top of that, Kentucky is not a true southern state.  Zell Miller is from Georgia.  Kentucky is not like Georgia or Alabama and even those states are slowly changing.  We also lost the south because the Republicans organized in the lower levels of government.  I'm not saying the south didn't have a reaction to the Civil Right Movement.  It did, of course.  But times are changing and so are Southern people.  

Democrats have big opportunities in the South and especially in a border state like Kentucky.  We need to open our eyes to these opportunities instead of rehashing 1968.  A lot of time and change has come since then.  

by Nick Stump 2007-05-28 08:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Didn't mean exactly like Zell
  Couldn't agree with you more.  Well said!
by kentuckydave 2007-05-29 12:04PM | 0 recs


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