Most hated governor in America still has a fighting chance in Kentucky

Jeff Neal

A non-partisan polling firm just tabbed Matt Bevin as the most unpopular governor in America.

I'd go further than that. I'd say Bevin is the most unpopular politician in Kentucky history.

This is the guy who said children in America were "soft" because schools cancelled classes when temperatures dropped to zero.

This is the guy who has maligned teachers and public education consistently during his term -- and has doubled down on those insults when challenged.

He most notably said teacher rallies could be linked to the sexual assault of children and lately insinuated that public educators didn't care about children at all.

In short, if you watch HBO's Veep, Bevin has been Jonah Ryan -- the bumbler who cannot help but say the wrong things the vast majority of the time.

But in this divided, party-first era, that doesn't necessarily mean he will lose in November as he seeks a second term.

On Wednesday night, the three Democrats who will duke it out next month for their party's gubernatorial nomination, and the right to face Bevin, squared off in a debate.

When the Commonwealth Journal asked readers who impressed them, the message was clear from the majority -- they were not going to vote for any Democrat.

There were a few people who watched with interest:

"Andy (Beshear) seemed like he was more prepared. I like Adam (Edelen), but I believe Andy won the debate."

"Rocky Adkins."

"Adam Edelen. But any of them would be better than Bevin. My 7-year-old granddaughter would make a better governor than Bevin."

"Honestly they were all so robotic and rehearsed none of them impressed me. I have a best option picked out but I can't really be enthusiastic about any of them. Another day in Kentucky politics."

"Adam Edelen had some interesting ideas."

But most of the responses were predictable:

"Not one Democrat impresses me."

"They're all full of it."

"Not a Democrat in the nation that could impress me."

"Big fat zero."

So as poorly as Bevin has performed, it might not matter in Pulaski County. And as the Republican Party grows in the Commonwealth, Bevin has more than a fighting chance across the state.

Bevin isn't really even challenged in the primary. State Sen. Robert Goforth has little name recognition and has been the subject of sexual assault allegations. I've seen a few signs up in Pulaski County supporting Goforth, but I'd be shocked if he got remotely close to the incumbent governor.

So it's up to the Dems, and I'll give them this -- the three candidates are very different.

Homespun Rocky Adkins, the House Minority Leader, may appeal to conservatives (and an ark full of teachers) who couldn't even bare to hold their nose and vote for Bevin.

Adkins is a moderate who is in touch with rural Kentucky -- something that Bevin is not.

Former State Auditor Adam Edelen has also garnered a modicum of support among fence-sitters (and educators), but may have hurt himself in the debate when he openly opposed Kentucky's new "open carry" policy that legalized carrying a concealed weapon, even without any formal training or licenses. I agree with him, but a lot of conservatives will not.

Andy Beshear has the name recognition, but he also has the "Democratic political machine" label that would prevent any loyal Republican from crossing over and voting for him. He's also the most liberal candidate -- as he is clearly pro-choice and has fought Bevin and the GOP tooth and nail on everything as State Attorney General. He's also stood with teachers in the face of Bevin's petulant insults, but I wonder if he can win across rural Kentucky.

The question is simple: Do enough Republicans despise Bevin enough to vote against their own party?

You might think so. But a whole lot of voters will choose party over people.

And that gives Bevin more than a fighting chance -- in spite of himself.

JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.

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