KENTUCKY — Heading into a pivotal election year, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear remains the most popular Democratic governor in the country according to a new poll released on Thursday.
Morning Consult polling from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 shows six in 10 Kentucky voters approve of Beshear’s job performance, while 34% disapprove. His approval rating is generally in line with his standing throughout Joe Biden’s presidency.
The polling revealed that 46% of Kentucky Republicans approve of his administration. Those marks make him the most popular Democratic governor with voters of the opposite party as well. 49% of independents approve Beshear’s job performance, along with 87% of Democrats in the state.
The new polling comes at a time when the governor is focusing on touting a booming economy in the state and making a pitch for long-term investments in the state as he readies for a potentially difficult re-election bid.
Earlier this month, Beshear delivered his State of the Commonwealth address to an audience of lawmakers in which he heralded the creation of 47,600 full-time jobs in the state, as well as the millions of dollars invested from the bourbon industry and the emerging electric vehicle battery production sector. In the address, the governor urged state lawmakers, who are currently in session in Frankfort, to increase teacher pay, legalize medical marijuana and pass sports betting.
In response to his address, Republican lawmakers David Osborne (R-Prospect) and Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) delivered a sharp rebuke, saying the positive economic developments were due to the “pro-growth policies” passed by state lawmakers, and that the governor shouldn’t take credit for them.
Despite his popularity, the incumbent Democrat will face an uphill battle for re-election in a state that is increasingly shifting red. In November, Republicans expanded their supermajority in the General Assembly to 80 seats while the Democratic caucus shrunk to just 20. When Beshear flipped the governor’s mansion in 2019, he was the only Democrat to win a statewide executive office.
Thirteen Republicans are lining up for a chance to take Beshear on in the November election, including Attorney General Daniel Cameron, State Auditor Mike Harmon, Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles and former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft. The primary election in Kentucky is on May 16.
While Republicans gained the advantage in official party registrations last year, independent voters also surged as a voting bloc with the addition of 3,973 voters. With all those factors in play, Kentucky’s governor’s race is already attracting national attention for what it might portend for Democrats’ prospects in rural states increasingly shifting red.