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Commanding lead for Beshear in new poll of KY governor's race

by Joe Arnold


Posted on July 31, 2011 at 2:55 AM

Updated Sunday, Jul 31 at 10:47 PM

(WHAS11) - Governor Steve Beshear (D) has a commanding 24 point lead over Republican challenger David Williams in a new WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll of the Kentucky Governor's race.

David Williams (R)        28%
Steve Beshear (D)         52%
Gatewood Galbraith (I)    9%
Undecided                       11%
Margin of Error: ± 4.4%
512 Likely Voters

"While the Governor is always gratified by the support of Kentuckians, he remains focused on creating jobs in every corner of Kentucky," said Kentucky Democratic Party Spokesman Matt Erwin.

Williams, the Kentucky Senate President, fended off a stronger than expected challenge in the GOP primary that left him with little campaign cash and questions about the support of Tea Party Republicans.  The campaign hopes that running mate Richie Farmer - the Agriculture Commissioner and former Kentucky Wildcat - will help Williams win over Kentucky voters.

"According to this poll over 40% of voters haven't yet formed an opinion of David Williams and our campaign is working to define David and his agenda," said  campaign manager Luke Marchant, "Beshear has a terrible record on jobs. He and Abramson are not pro-life. They both openly endorse Obama's dramatically unpopular healthcare plan and war on Kentucky coal.  David will stand up for conservative values on all of those issues, and he has a real plan to create jobs. Steve Beshear is content to tread water and tow Obama's line. David is a tough, bold leader with real ideas to make Kentucky a better place. Our campaign is designed to peak on Election Day, not in July."

Beshear and running mate Jerry Abramson, the former Louisville mayor, were not opposed in the primary and have several million dollars in the bank.

Beshear's reelection campaign touts his leadership during the recession that he says has balanced budgets while sparing the Commonwealth painful cuts, particularly to education.

"I feel like that we have shown strong leadership in bringing Kentucky through the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes," Beshear said on Thursday when asked about his campaign.

It's the message Beshear has repeated for a solid year that WIlliams is trying to counteract.

"I just believe when people get to know me better and when they get to see the comparison between the two of us, they'll see one candidate with a vision for Kentucky that we can create jobs, change our state, become more competitive," Williams explained, "make this the best place in America to create and retain jobs.  And then you have Steve Beshear who wants to tell you, 'well, times have been bad but I've done pretty well in bad times.'  He hasn't done well.  He has what we used to call the slough and cover, he's sloughed and now he's covering."

The favorability ratings in the poll reveal the challenge before Williams, overcoming how Kentuckians perceive him after decades in the Kentucky Senate. 

Opinion of David Williams
Likely voters

Favorable      21%
Unfavorable  36%
Neutral           24%
No Opinion    19%

Williams has a Minus 15 Favorability Rating in the poll. 36 percent of Kentucky voters have an unfavorable view of him.  Only 21 percent view him favorably.

Opinion of David Williams

Favorable     41%
Unfavorable 21%
Neutral          25%
No Opinion   14%

Even 21 percent of his fellow Republicans have an unfavorable view of Williams. 

"I don't have control of the filter, you see," Williams said in an interview two days before he learned of the poll results, "The Courier-Journal, the Herald Leader as ineffectual as they have become, if they hit you everyday, put a bad photo of you in there everyday, put a bad spin on what you say everyday, a misrepresentation out everyday, after a while, through osmosis if nothing else, some of this sort of thing sticks"

Beshear, meanwhile, has a Plus 27 Favorability Rating which pollster Survey USA points out is "impressive in a climate where some blame Democrats for the country's lingering wars and weak economy."

Opinion of Steve Beshear
Likely voters

Favorable       48%
Unfavorable   21%
Neutral            22%
No Opinion       9%

Beshear leads in every region of the Commonwealth - from a 15 point lead in Western Kentucky to a 36 point spread in Louisville and surrounding counties, the home turf of running mate Jerry Abramson.  Williams has advocated for neighborhood schools in Jefferson County -- but it does not appear to have made a dent.

By Region
Beshear lead

Western             + 15
Eastern              + 24
North Central    + 21
Louisville area  + 36

"I feel very good about where we are right now," Beshear said, "obviously have been spending most of my time doing my job and trying to get our people back to work
we've got some very good signs that our economy is beginning to turn around with the unemployment rate that's starting to drop more now."

Williams was counting on the poll to encourage donors from inside and outside Kentucky to invest in his campaign. 

At last count, Beshear had two to three times as much campaign cash, a considerable advantage  with three months until election day.

WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll:

  • 25% of Republicans cross-over to vote Democrat.
  • 21% of Tea Party members cross-over to vote Democrat.
  • Just 56% of Republican voters are backing the Republican candidate.

With three months to go, this appears to be Steve Beshear's race to lose.

Less than nine months ago, the last statewide election saw the Republican, Rand Paul, trounce Democrat Jack Conway in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.

Rand PAUL (REP)        55.69%    755,411
Jack CONWAY (DEM)   44.22%    599,843

Backed by a Tea Party wave, Paul beat Conway by an 11 point margin.

Where is the Tea Party in the 2011 race for governor?

Tea Party voters
Williams (R)    58%
Beshear (D)    21%
Galbraith (I)     16%
Undecided        6%
Margin of Error: ± 4.4%

21 percent of self-described Tea Party members are defecting to Beshear.  And the 16 percent Tea Party support for Independent Gatewood Galbraith is his largest showing among any demographic group.

Beshear's support
Louisville -    61%
Moderates  - 65%
Women      -  57%
Seniors    -    59%
Pro-choice -  70%

Support within own party
76% of Democrats

56% of Republicans

Conservative voters
Williams  45%
Beshear   33%
Galbraith  9%
Undecided 13%