It took nearly a century for Republicans in Kentucky to gain full control of the state government in Frankfort. Thanks to the autocratic tendencies and boorish attitude of Gov. Matt Bevin, their hold on all levers of power may be short-lived.
Earlier this week, Mason-Dixon released its first poll of this coming November’s Kentucky gubernatorial election, and it’s not looking good out the gate for Bevin. The first-termer trails his most likely opponent, Attorney General Andy Beshear, 48-40, while also trailing State Sen. Rocky Adkins, 42-41. It’s still early, and many have pointed out that Bevin trailed through most of his first election in 2015 before pulling it out in the end, and those things are both true. But the underlying numbers are troubling for Bevin and encouraging for Democrats.
Bevin’s struggles are not just a result of national dissatisfaction with Republicans or antipathy toward Donald Trump. Kentucky voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, then re-elected most GOP legislators in 2018 (though more on those numbers in a bit). Kentuckians just really hate Matt Bevin, who has paired assaults on working people with brash, venomous public remarks.
The governor has just a 38% approval rating, while 53% of Kentuckians disapprove of his performance in office. The dissatisfaction isn’t concentrated in cities and the more liberal parts of the state, either. While he’s the furthest underwater in the Louisville metropolitan area (31-60) and around Lexington (31-61), there is not a single region of the state where he’s above water. The closest he comes is 45-48 approval-disapproval in Western Kentucky. This is significant because Bevin took 106 of Kentucky’s 120 counties in 2015, winning rural voters as well as plenty of suburban and urban voters.
Bevin’s struggles are also not limited to the gender divide that has so defined American politics of late. He is overwhelmingly hated by women, with a 33-57 approval-to-disapproval spread, but men also are unhappy with his performance, with a 44-48 margin. In the 2018 midterms, men still supported the Republican Party, voting 51% for the GOP. Speaking of midterms, those are also instructive, though the lessons you take from the numbers really depend on how you want to interpret them.