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Polls point to razor-close governor’s races in Kentucky, Mississippi heading into last week
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin appears to have closed gap on Democratic challenger, poll finds
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
Heading into the final week of campaigning in governor’s races in Kentucky and Mississippi, polling shows Democrats within striking distance of winning in states that President Donald Trump won by a mile just three years ago.
In Kentucky, a Mason-Dixon poll released October 16 showed Republican Governor Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear both at 46 percent, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.
While neither candidate has a lead in the race, the results of the poll were actually good news for Bevin, who trailed Beshear by 8 points in a poll by the same organization back in January.
In Mississippi, where Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood are competing for an open governor’s seat, Reeves led Hood 46 percent to 43 percent in an October 23 Mason-Dixon poll, within the poll’s margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.
Because the result is within the margin of error, the poll cannot definitely say either candidate is ahead, although the result does point to a close race.
Very little public polling has been done in either of these races, which also makes it difficult to confirm Mason-Dixon’s findings.
The poll in Kentucky found that Bevin has closed the gap with Beshear due to a 10-point increase in his support among Republicans, who appear to be returning to the governor’s camp as the election nears.
Bevin is also drawing support from 22 percent of Democrats in the poll, while Beshear is only getting 15 percent crossover support from Republicans.
The poll also showed that Bevin — who has consistently ranked among the nation’s least popular governors — has improved his job performance rating since January, although it still remains about 3 points underwater.
The poll also found Bevin leading Beshear in Eastern Kentucky, a region he lost to a little-known challenger in the Republican primary, which will be key to winning re-election.
The governor has also tied himself firmly to Trump, who carried Kentucky by 30 points in 2016. The poll showed Trump’s approval rating in Kentucky at 57 percent, with almost two-thirds of state voters opposing his impeachment.
Like Bevin, Reeves is also benefiting from Trump’s popularity in Mississippi, where the poll found his job approval rating at 54 percent and 56 percent opposing impeachment. The president carried the Magnolia State by 28 points in 2016.
Trump will come to Tupleo to campaign for Reeves on the Sunday before the November 5 election and will be at Rupp Arena in Lexington on the Monday before the election to campaign for Bevin.
The governor’s race in Mississippi is a collision between two men who, between them, have won eight statewide races.
For Reeves, 45, the governorship will be a culmination of a climb through state politics that began when he won election as state treasurer in 2003 at the tender age of 29. He has served two terms as treasurer and two as lieutenant governor.
Hood, 57, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, has been attorney general since 2004. He has parted ways with national Democrats by taking more conservative positions on criminal justice and legal abortion, which he opposes.
He has also made expanding Medicaid in Mississippi — opposed by Reeves and long blocked by Republicans in Jackson — a centerpiece of his campaign.
Mississippi has not elected a Democrat as governor since 1999.
In Kentucky, the governor’s race is an extension of a bitter feud between Bevin and Beshear that began in 2016, when Beshear assumed the attorney generalship and the governor took over as chief executive from Beshear’s father, former Governor Steve Beshear.
Beshear has sued the governor at least eight times, including a successful effort to scuttle a GOP pension reform plan passed in 2018.
Bevin’s approval ratings have sagged as he has sparred with his lieutenant governor and fellow Republicans in the legislature and criticized public school teachers, who have descended on Frankfort during the past two legislative sessions to protest proposed changes in state pensions.
Beshear highlighted that issue by picking a public school teacher, Jacqueline Coleman, as his running mate for lieutenant governor and featuring aggrieved educators in his campaign ads.
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Democrat Amy McGrath will not run for Kentucky governor in 2019
Recent poll shows Republican Governor Matt Bevin vulnerable to Democratic challenge
LEXINGTON, Kentucky (CFP) — Amy McGrath will not seek Kentucky’s governorship in 2019, despite the urging of supporters who wanted the rising Democratic star to jump into the race against Republican Governor Matt Bevin, whose sagging popularity has made him vulnerable.
In a December 19 email to supporters, McGrath said she was “humbled by the encouragement” to get into the race but decided not to seek the governorship or any other statewide office next year.
“That doesn’t mean I’ll stop working for the values and beliefs we all care about,” she said. “I deeply wish to help move Kentucky and our country forward and I can assure you that I will continue to speak out on the important issues of the day.”
McGrath, 43, a retired Marine combat pilot, burst on the political scene in 2017 when a video announcing her run for the 6th District U.S. House seat went viral.
She went on to win the Democratic primary and raise $8.6 million for the race, the most by any Southern Democratic House challenger in the 2018 election cycle. In the end, she lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr by 9,700 votes.
McGrath’s potential candidacy for governor faced a possible hurdle — Kentucky’s Constitution requires six years of continuous residence to run for governor, and McGrath had lived out of state during her military service before returning to run for Congress.
Had she run, the courts would have likely decided if McGrath’s out-of-state military service disqualified her.
However, that state requirement would not bar her from seeking federal office again — including the U.S. Senate seat held by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is up for re-election in 2020.
Bevin announced in August that he plans to run for re-election in 2019. However, he has yet to file the paperwork needed to begin raising money for the race.
A Mason-Dixon poll taken Dec. 12-15 found Bevin’s approval rating at 38 percent, with 53 percent saying they disapproved of the governor’s performance. A year earlier, his approval was 45 percent in the same poll.
Earlier this month, the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously struck down a pension reform bill crafted by Bevin and Republicans in the legislature, which sparked angry protests by teachers and state employees when it passed last spring.
Bevin then called lawmakers into special session to push through the pension measure again, only to see GOP leaders adjourn after one day without taking any action, which the governor criticized as “one of the worst financial days to have ever descended down on the Commonwealth.”
The legal fight to overturn the pension law was led by Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is running to unseat Bevin. The Mason-Dixon poll showed Beshear with a 48 percent to 40 percent lead over Bevin in a hypothetical match-up, right at the poll’s margin of error.
Also in the Democratic race is House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins from Sandy Hook. The biggest unknown is whether Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes will run now that her father, Jerry Lundergan, has been indicted on charges of illegally funneling money into her 2014 U.S. Senate campaign.
Grimes, the only Democrat other than Beshear to hold statewide office, has not been implicated in the case. But her father’s trial is scheduled for August, right in the middle of the campaign.
Other Democrats considering the race including former State Auditor Adam Edelen from Lexington and State Rep. Attica Scott from Louisville.
Kentucky is one of five states that elect their governors in off years, along with Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia, and New Jersey. Among those states, Mississippi and Louisiana are also up in 2019.
While Republicans hold most state and federal offices in Kentucky, and President Donald Trump carried the commonwealth by 30 points in 2016, Democrats have had more success winning the governorship.
Bevin is just the third Republican elected governor in the past 50 years, and no Republican has won re-election since the Constitution was changed in 1992 to allow governors to succeed themselves.
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Poll: Graham, DeSantis both now clearly front-runners in Florida governor primaries
Mason-Dixon poll shows DeSantis up by double digits in GOP contest; Graham leads by 9 points among Democrats
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
JACKSONVILLE (CFP) — With a month to go before Florida’s primaries for governor, a new poll shows that Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Ron DeSantis have opened up leads over their party rivals in the chase to be the Sunshine State’s next chief executive.
The Mason-Dixon poll released July 27 found that Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee and daughter of former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, was the choice of 27 percent of Democrats, leading former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 18 percent and Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene at 12 percent.
Trailing in the crowded Democratic field were Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, at 10 percent, and Chris King, an attorney and real estate investor from Orlando, at 7 percent.
The margin of error in the poll of 500 likely Democratic voters was plus or minus 4.5 percent, which means Graham’s lead over Levin is statistically significant. However, 25 percent of voters said they were still undecided, indicating that the race still remains fluid.
Because Florida does not have primary runoffs, Graham could win the nomination with a plurality in the crowded Democratic field.
On the Republican side, DeSantis, a congressman from metro Jacksonville, holds a more substantial lead over State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, 41 percent to 29 percent. However, 28 percent of likely Republicans in the poll said they were still undecided.
The margin of error in the poll of 500 likely Republican voters was also plus or minus 4.5 percent.
Putnam, a veteran of state politics from Polk County who served a decade in Congress before being elected agriculture commissioner in 2010, was considered the front-runner in the GOP race until DeSantis announced his run in January, backed with an endorsement from President Donald Trump.
A previous Mason-Dixon poll in February showed Putnam with a 4-point lead over DeSantis, indicating a shift of 16 points in the past five months.
Mason-Dixon did not pit the Republican and Democratic front-runners in a hypothetical matchup. However, the poll did find that among voters as a whole, Graham was viewed more favorably than DeSantis.
Among voters who recognized Graham, 35 percent had a favorable view of her, compared to just 5 percent who did not. For DeSantis, the figures were 32 percent approval and 21 percent disapproval.
The Florida primaries are August 28.
Incumbent Governor Rick Scott is term limited and running instead for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.
Poll: Trump, Clinton running even in normally deep red Mississippi
Results of a new Mason-Dixon poll expose Trump’s general election vulnerabilities
JACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — A new poll shows that if Republicans pick Donald Trump as their nominee, Mississippi could be in play in the general election for the first time in 36 years–a stark illustration of the uphill battle he may face across the country come November.
The Mason-Dixon poll of Mississippi voters showed Trump leading the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, by just 3 points, 46 percent to 43 percent, with 11 percent undecided. That is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, which means that, statistically speaking, Trump and Clinton are in a tie.
By contrast, Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich, both beat Clinton by double-digit margins.
The last time Mississippi was in play in a general election was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter by less than 2 points. The last Democrat to carry Mississippi was Carter in 1976.
How rare is it for a Democratic nominee to carry Mississippi? In the last 60 years, it has happened exactly twice, in 1956 and 1976. And in the last four elections, the Republican candidate has won by an average of 15 points.
The poll results are likely to add fuel to arguments by Cruz and Kasich that Trump would be a general election disaster for the GOP. Cruz leads Clinton in a general election match-up 51 percent to 40 percent; Kasich does even better, 52 percent to 37 percent.
Clinton holds an astounding 90-point lead among African-American voters, who make up a third of the Mississippi electorate. A mere 3 percent of black voters said they support Trump.
Clinton also has an 8-point lead among women and is taking a 15 percent share of Republican women.
And while Trump pulls only 8 percent of Democrats, the poll showed Clinton winning 11 percent of Republicans. Self-identified independents broke for Trump 49 percent to 37 percent.
The poll also showed that while both Clinton and Trump have high negatives among voters in the Magnolia State, Trump was viewed slightly more unfavorably. The difference between his favorable and unfavorable ratings was 11 points; hers was 8.
The poll of 625 registered Mississippi voters was conducted March 28-30. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage votes, which means there is a 95 percent probability that the actual result if all voters were surveyed would fall within a range 4 points above and below the reported figure.