Kentucky Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin
• KY-Gov: It's been a month since tea partying businessman Matt Bevin pulled off an unlikely 83-vote win in the Republican primary, but we've had to wait until now for a public poll this fall's general election. Public Policy Polling gives Bevin a small 38-35 lead against Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, with independent Drew Curtis taking 6. When Curtis is removed and his supporters are asked to pick one of the major-party candidates, Bevin's edge is a very similar 40-38.
Democrats were hoping that the exceptionally ugly GOP primary would damage the eventual nominee, but that doesn't seem to have happened. While Bevin's 31-28 favorable rating isn't incredible, it's actually a little better than Conway's 31-34 score.
And while some early pre-primary polls pegged him as the weakest option for November, Bevin managed to stay above the fray as his two Republican opponents nuked one another. In the end, though he only took the narrowest of pluralities in the primary, he managed to emerge as an acceptable candidate to a broad swath of GOP voters. Indeed, Republicans back Bevin by a 71-8 margin, while Democrats only rally behind Conway 58-15.
It's no secret that plenty of registered Democrats in Kentucky have rejected national Democrats, but PPP asks respondents to self-identify, so its demographics don't reflect anachronistic voter rolls which misleadingly still show Democrats as the state's majority party. So Conway's vote share among Democrats is, if anything, particularly weak, since a lot of folks who are "Democrats in name only" because of what's printed on their voter registration cards won't identify that way to pollsters.
The one bit of good news for Democrats is that outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear is still decently popular, sporting a 43-35 approval rating. Conway will try to link himself to Beshear as closely as he can, while Republicans will do everything they can to tie him to President Obama and his atrocious 33-60 job approval score. That's why Conway's trying to distance himself from some of the Obama Administration's agenda, taking the tried-and-true route of challenging the EPA in court (on coal, of course).
The bad news is much worse. Head below the fold to find out why.
So far, Beshear's pixie dust hasn't done much to help Conway or the rest of the Democratic ticket. There's no better example than the fact that the governor's own son, Andy Beshear, trails Republican Whitney Westerfield by a 41-36 margin in the race for the open attorney general's office.
Team Blue is also in real danger of losing the other downballot statewide offices they hold. Secretary of State and 2014 Senate nominee Alison Grimes trails Republican Steve Knipper 47-42, while Auditor Adam Edelen loses to Mike Harmon 39-33. Edelen has been mentioned as a future Senate candidate, and if he loses, that would be a big setback for the Kentucky Democratic Party's long-term prospects. Democrats also post 9-point deficits in the open races for treasurer and agriculture commissioner.
Against all odds, Kentucky Democrats managed to hold the state House of Representatives last year despite the GOP wave and a well-funded effort to flip it, so the party still has some juice left. And while they've gotten absolutely pummeled on the federal level for decades in the Bluegrass State, Democrats won all but one state-level office four years ago. But even in states like Arkansas and West Virginia, where Democrats had held on even as the rest of the South marched straight into Republican hands, the bottom has finally dropped out. Will Kentucky continue to defy that trend, or is this the end of the line?
Well, we still have a ways to go. This is just one poll and Conway's 3-point deficit is far from insurmountable, but he'll need a few things to go right. Bevin proved to be an undisciplined campaigner during his 2014 Senate race: He notably wasted weeks trying to explain his stance on cockfighting, of all things. If Bevin proves to be as sloppy as some Republicans fear he will be, it will give Conway an opening. But Conway's going to need to do a better job appealing to the conservative Democrats who've backed Beshear but have rejected Obama. He can do it, but it won't be easy.
• CA-Sen: On Tuesday, Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris won the support of the state SEIU. Harris so far has dominated in the endorsement battle, while Rep. Loretta Sanchez's late entry and terrible first weekend hasn't helped her make inroads. On the GOP side, Rocky Chávez announced that he has 22 fellow assemblymembers in his corner, which is almost the entire caucus. Chávez's chances of actually getting to the U.S. Senate next year are very slim (to put it very charitably) but if he can unify the GOP base against former state party chair Tom Del Beccaro, he has a better chance to advance past the top-two primary and deny Sanchez a spot in the general.
• CO-Sen: Republican state Senate President Pro-Tem Ellen Roberts initially sounded very interested in challenging Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, but she announced that she won't go for it. While some Republicans thought that the relatively moderate Roberts could give Bennet a real challenge, she badly flubbed several questions about abortion during a recent radio interview. The national GOP is still searching for a contender and while they have several options, none of their top picks sound very excited.
• KY-Sen: PPP gives us an early look at next year's Senate race, but so far, there's no sign that Republican Sen. Rand Paul's decision to seek re-election while running for president is threatening his party's control of this seat.
Outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has given no indication that he's at all interested in challenging Paul, which is just as well since he would trail 49-39. Beshear is actually quite a bit more popular than Paul, sporting a 43-35 approval rating compared to the Republican's 43-42 score. But as the even-more unpopular Mitch McConnell proved last year, the GOP won't have a hard time winning as long as they have the Obama White House to run against. PPP also tossed in Democratic Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen, but she trails Paul 51-37. Luallen has occasionally been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate, but she's shown no real interest.
It's unclear what would happen to the GOP nomination if Paul somehow winds up on the GOP presidential ticket, with some legal experts arguing that state law would prevent Team Red from choosing a replacement candidate. PPP picks Rep. Thomas Massie as a very hypothetical GOP nominee, and he does initially make things more competitive. Massie trails Beshear 43-38, and only edges Luallen 37-35. Voters barely have an impression of Massie, and it's likely that he'd boost his numbers if he actually ran. But given how much of a long-shot Rand Paul's White House bid is, we'll almost certainly never know for sure.
• MD-Sen: Chris Van Hollen has won the support of another prominent politician from Prince George's County, the home base of his Democratic primary rival Donna Edwards. This time it's state Sen. Joanne Benson, who is well known in the area for helping organize residents against crime and underdevelopment. It's also not lost on anyone that like Edwards, Benson is an African American woman, though she downplayed this in her speech supporting Van Hollen.
• FL-13: Another Democrat is scouting out a bid against Republican Rep. David Jolly in this 50-49 Obama seat. St. Petersburg Councilor Darden Rice confirms that she's seriously considering, and expects to decide by the second week of July. Rice has a reputation as a progressive and she's already met with EMILY's List, though the group says they haven't decided if they'd back her. While Rice only won her council seat in 2013, she raised some serious money and sounds connected.
But if Rice runs, she can expect some company in the primary. Former Obama Administration official Eric Lynn is already in, and ex-Tampa Councilor Mary Mulhern announced on Tuesday that she'll also seek this seat. Mulhern is only moving to Pinellas County now, and it's no secret that Pinellas voters don't like it when Tampa-area politicians parachute in to seek local office. However, it looks like we won't see another bid from 2012 nominee Jessica Ehrlich, who sounds very excited about Rice.
• PA-06: Democratic businessman Mike Parrish has announced that he will challenge freshman Republican Ryan Costello. Parrish planned to run for this light red suburban Philadelphia seat last year and earned plenty of support from national Democrats. However, Parrish only joined the Democratic Party in 2013, and he had donated to GOP candidates as recently as 2012. Parrish eventually dropped out and backed Manan Trivedi rather than go through a bruising primary.
But Parrish may not have a clear path to the Democratic nomination this time either. Physician Joe Denham, who became the first Democrat in decades to win a seat on the Board of Supervisors for West Whiteland Township, is considering a run. Parrish describes himself as "a centrist moderate," which could play well in the general but drag him down in a primary (though he's also calling himself an environmentalist and supporter of women's rights). Romney won this seat 51-48 and Team Blue wants to beat Costello before he becomes entrenched.
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The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, and Daniel Donner.