Matt Bevin has shown a cavalier attitude to facts as he confronts Democrat Andy Beshears challenge but his anti-abortion stance could serve him well
It was a perfectly Trumpian moment for one of Americas most Trumpian governors.
Kentuckys attorney general, Andy Beshear, had just accused the Republican governor, Matt Bevin, of lying in a debate last week, saying: This is just more of the same from a governor who says that someone commits suicide on a casino floor every night.
Ive never said anything like that in my life, Bevin shot back at his Democratic challenger for the governors seat.
Its all on tape! responded a flabbergasted Beshear as Bevin continued his denials.
Of course, there is a tape: the governors comments that people kill themselves in casinos though, not specifically casino floors were made without proof in July and helped fuel Kentuckys election news cycle for a few days. But Bevin appears to have taken a lesson from the president on the art of denial.
With a disapproval rating of 53%, Bevin is currently ranked the second-least popular governor in the country according to Morning Consult and for much of the year, he was the least popular. But despite that unpopularity largely driven by his combative personality and repeated attacks on public school teachers theres a fairly good chance hes about to win re-election on 5 November.
I think the odds are in his favour because the political landscape tilts in his direction, said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. This is a socially conservative state and hes a social conservative. Its a pro-Trump state and hes wrapped himself around Trump. And he has presided over a good economy for most of the state.
A Mason-Dixon poll earlier this month showed Bevin in a dead heat with Beshear, Kentuckys attorney general, with each candidate polling at 46%.
In Kentucky, conservative voters are faced with a choice that Republicans around the country will have to make in 12 months: will they vote for an incumbent despite what is seen as an off-putting personality? Do party power and policy outweigh everything else?
Like Trump, Bevins words have gotten him into trouble. When public school teachers protested against controversial pension reform efforts, Bevin said the strike would result in children left at home without supervision being sexually assaulted and ingesting poison. Later, he blamed the accidental shooting of a seven-year-old girl by her 11-year-old brother on teachers who were protesting that day, leaving schools closed. He said those protesting against pension reform had a thug mentality.
Primaried by Republican challengers earlier this year, he secured his partys nomination with just 52% of the vote, losing large swaths of the state.
In a state where Trump carried more than 60% of the vote in 2016 and every county except for the homes of the two biggest cities, Bevin has anchored himself to the president, portraying the gubernatorial election as part of a larger national battle.