Kentucky governor’s race: Will Biden’s unpopularity drag down Andy Beshear?

That image is what Cameron and Republicans have to overcome. Despite being a Democrat in a state Trump won by 26 points in 2020, Beshear remains broadly well-liked. Between July and September of this year, Morning Consult’s quarterly gubernatorial approval ratings showed 60 percent of Kentucky voters — including 43 percent of Republicans — had a positive impression of his job performance.

But Biden won just 36 percent of the vote in Kentucky in 2020 — and he’s gotten a lot less popular since then. That provided an opening for Republicans.

Adams, the secretary of state, said his campaign had recently commissioned a poll that found Kentucky Republicans aren’t plugged into the statewide race, suggesting leaning into national politics is the way to activate them.

“They’re watching Fox News. They’re focused on Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan and Donald Trump, and they’re tuning out the state and local issues,” said Adams.

The national polarization of politics has become a major challenge for down-ballot candidates whose chances of standing apart from their partisan labels have rapidly dwindled. Fewer and fewer governors over time run states that vote for the opposite party in presidential elections.

If Beshear loses next week, it would leave just seven governors from the party that lost the 2020 presidential election in their states, thanks to Gov.-elect Jeff Landry’s victory in Louisiana last month — and only two would be Democrats. (Republicans could also cede two of their blue-state governorships in the next two years in states that are getting bluer: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is retiring next year, and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is term-limited in Nov. 2025.)

And Beshear’s task is, in many ways, more difficult than his colleagues’. Only Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican who leads a state Biden won by 35 points in 2020, is a bigger outlier compared with his state’s partisan lean.

Beshear is eager to nod to bipartisanship any chance he gets. In responses to reporters’ questions about running as a Democrat in Kentucky, he echoes well-honed talking points about “recognizing that a good job isn’t Democrat or Republican,” and “a new bridge isn’t red or blue.”

And even in a red state, some of his ads portray Cameron’s support for the state’s near-total abortion ban as an extreme position.

Cameron doesn’t shy away from local issues such as concerns about affordability, taxes and crime — but always remains eager to use them to tie Beshear to his national party.

“I talk about Andy Beshear and the fact that he endorsed Joe Biden,” Cameron said to POLITICO, before rattling off a list of “dinner table” issues, such as increasing food and energy costs that have also dogged Biden’s economic record. “These are all about issues related to Andy Beshear, and we’re going to continue to talk about those things.”

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