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New poll asserts Kentucky governor race a dead heat between Beshear, Cameron

Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron sparred on the debate stage at Northern Kentucky University.
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Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron sparred on the debate stage at Northern Kentucky University.

A national pollster’s latest survey of Kentuckians has the race for governor between incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican challenger Daniel Cameron as a dead heat – just a month after the same firm showed Beshear with a double-digit lead.

Emerson College Polling’s survey of Kentuckians this week found Beshear and Cameron tied at 47%, while its previous polling from early October had Beshear leading by 16 percentage points, 49% to 33%, with many more undecided voters.

Jessica Taylor, an analyst of governor races with Cook Political Report, said she’s not surprised to see a poll showing a tightening race.

“I think that Republicans in the end come home, and that's benefiting Cameron,” Taylor said.

However, Taylor said the newest polling doesn’t change her outlook of the race, which she rates as “Lean Democrat,” slightly in favor of Beshear, citing Beshear’s consistently high approval rating of roughly 60% throughout the year.

“But would I be surprised for this to be a very close race on election night?” Taylor asked. “I would not.”

The methodology of the firm’s survey changed significantly in its most recent one, polling only people who said they are likely voters or had already voted early, whereas the early October survey included responses from any registered voter.

When undecided voters were asked which candidate they leaned toward in the new poll, Cameron pulled slightly ahead of Beshear, 49% to 48%.

Emerson found Cameron gained the most ground in the past month among supporters of former President Donald Trump, 79% of whom said they would vote for the fellow Republican – a 25-point jump from its previous poll.

At campaign stop in Bowling Green Friday, Beshear said the only numbers that matter are the results on Election Day.

“We're confident that as we go into these last few days, that we are up, but we are not resting on any of that data,” Beshear said. “We're getting out there and doing the work.”

A spokesman for Cameron said the Emerson poll clearly shows that “momentum is building” for his campaign, adding that he is “in a strong position to win and deliver a new era of Republican leadership for Kentucky."

There has been a dearth of independent polling on Kentucky’s race for governor this year outside of Emerson, following numerous election cycles in Kentucky where firms either decided to not poll statewide races or whiffed on results.

Eight partisan internal polls commissioned by either the two candidates or supportive PACs have been publicly released since the May primary, with each showing Beshear with a lead over Cameron ranging from two to nine percentage points.

Emerson was also the only independent firm to survey Kentucky Republicans ahead of the May primary for governor, with its final poll showing Cameron up 16 points over his closest rival in a crowded field. Cameron went on to win the primary with nearly 48% of the vote – 26 points over the second-place finisher.

Joe is the enterprise statehouse reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Lexington, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email Joe at jsonka@lpm.org.
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