President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is still a year away, but Kentucky is going to get a preview this fall.
Gov. Matt Bevin is clinging as tightly as he can to Trump — even borrowing some of his tactics — as he attempts to overcome rock-bottom approval ratings in a bid for a second term. The unpopular governor is counting on Trump’s appeal in the Bluegrass State — the president won Kentucky by 30 percentage points in 2016 — and conservative cultural positions to knock off his chief political rival, state Attorney General Andy Beshear, the son of Bevin’s predecessor.
Like Trump, Bevin is a first-term Republican incumbent whose abrasive political style has chafed large swaths of voters. Last year, he apologized after suggesting children in Kentucky were being sexually assaulted at home because of teachers’ protests that had shut down a number of public schools. Then, this spring, Bevin appeared to blame a teacher sickout for the accidental shooting of 7-year-old girl in Louisville.
Bevin’s penchant for controversy — a list of provocative comments includes statements about his own children and chicken pox and closing schools because of extreme cold — has rendered him vulnerable in this conservative-oriented state. Public polling is limited, but Bevin scored a worst-in-the-nation 32 percent job-approval rating in Morning Consult’s quarterly tracking of governors’ popularity.