Incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has cast himself as a close ally and defender of President Donald Trump, in a state the President won in 2016 by nearly 30 points. Republicans here hope that Trump’s popularity in the state can carry Bevin, who is widely seen as unpopular, to victory over his Democratic challenger Andy Beshear.
Democrats, on the other hand, hope that Bevin’s unpopularity and a focus on local – not national – issues can lead them to victory on Tuesday.
As the impeachment process ramps up in Washington, the Kentucky election will test whether Trump’s base is energized enough to reelect an unpopular Republican incumbent. The governor has said a vote for him is a vote to punish the Democrats in Washington currently going after the President.
On Monday night, Bevin attended a big get-out-the-vote rally with the President in Louisville, where impeachment was front-and-center. Behind Trump, supporters wore T-shirts with “Read The Transcript” written on them, a reference to the White House line that the partial readout of the President’s call with the Ukrainian President absolves him of any crime.
Democrats have pinned their hopes on Bevin’s struggles. Bevin’s popularity has dipped during his time governor after high-profile battles with public school teachers and supporters of Medicaid expansion passed into law by Bevin’s predecessor Steve Beshear — father of the current Democratic nominee.
CNN followed one Beshear-backing operative as he tried to convince swing voters to cast their ballot for the Democrat.
Soren Norris is a professional organizer with Working America, the political arm of the AFL-CIO. His group focuses on working class, independent voters. They’re not affiliated with any political party, but they support pro-union candidates which means if they’re working in a race, it’s probably on behalf of a Democrat.
On the Sunday before Kentucky voters go to the polls in a hotly contested gubernatorial race, Norris was knocking doors, just has he has for the past 11 weeks or so. He said if Democratic nominee Beshear is going to win, it will be because the conversation is about local politics and not the impeachment fight echoed in Washington.
“For this election, I don’t think its changed much. It’s not really on the forefront of the typical voters mind here in Kentucky, again they’re focused on their kitchen table issues,” Norris said .
It’s Republicans who’d rather talk about Trump over anything else. As the impeachment inquiry has ramped up, Bevin has continued to tie himself to Trump .
The Beshear supporters Norris connected with uniformly expected the Bevin strategy to work.
“Probably not here in Kentucky,” Beshear supporter Rick Wanalista said when asked if the impeachment inquiry would help the Democrats. “But I’m glad it’s coming out.”
Teachers have proven to be among Bevin’s toughest critics.
Sharonda Morton is a middle school math teacher, and said many of her fellow educators are really hoping Bevin is replaced. But like many Beshear supporters on Norris’ route Sunday, she wasn’t expecting a Democratic win.
Morton joked that no matter what the outcome, students in Kentucky should expect a day off Wednesday — either because teachers are staying home to celebrate a Bevin defeat or sulk because he was reelected.
Norris focus is on working class swing voters, people who might consider themselves independents. MaryAnn Truman is one of those voters. She said she leaned Republican, but after some persuasion from Norris, she said she might change her mind. She voted for Trump and Bevin but now she doesn’t like either one.
Impeachment is far from her mind.
“Impeachment whatever, they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do,” she said. “I just want someone who is gonna stand up for us.”