Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear are in a dead heat in the race for governor of Kentucky, according to an independent poll released Wednesday.
Both Bevin and Beshear had the support of 46% of the 625 likely voters who responded to the telephone survey, while 7% said they were undecided. The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Mason-Dixon has a B-plus pollster rating according to the website FiveThirtyEight.
Bevin has clawed back from an early deficit. Both his campaign and the Republican Governors Association have hammered Beshear on controversial issues like abortion and illegal immigration while touting the economy. They’ve also pushed back against the central message of Beshear’s campaign — that Bevin has a “war” on public education — by pointing to funding his administration has put into the education and teacher pension systems.
Bevin’s messaging appears to have worked. Only 36% of respondents had a favorable opinion of him, but 45% of respondents said they approved of his job performance. Republicans in particular have warmed to Bevin, as his campaign has asked them to vote their values. Seventy-two percent of Republicans approve of the job Bevin is doing as governor while 77% of Republicans said they would vote for him in November.
Beshear was viewed favorably by 37% of respondents.
Just 15% of Republicans said they would cross the aisle to vote for Beshear while 22% of Democrats said they will vote for Bevin.
People who identified as independents said they supported Beshear over Bevin, with 46% backing Beshear and 38% for Bevin. Beshear also had more support among people under the age of 50 (50% to 41%) and women (49% to 41%), while Bevin led among older voters (50% to 43%) and men (51% to 43%).
Eastern Kentucky has been seen as up for grabs after both Bevin and Beshear lost several counties in the region in their respective primaries, but the poll showed Bevin ahead 56% to 38% in the region. Northern Kentucky, however, appeared more competitive as Bevin led by only two points, 47% to 45%.
As recently as August, the Beshear campaign was boasting to donors that it had a 9 point lead on Bevin, but they have been largely outspent on television. An earlier Mason-Dixon poll, taken in December 2018, showed Beshear with a 48% to 40% lead over Bevin.
Both Republicans and Democrats say their current internal polls show them winning the race.
The Mason-Dixon poll, which the pollster said was not paid for by any outside clients, also surveyed President Donald Trump’s popularity.
The president is expected to play a large role in the race for governor and has promised Bevin he will campaign in Kentucky before the election. Trump’s job approval rating was 57% and 55% of respondents said they saw him favorably. The poll found that 65% of Kentuckians oppose impeaching Trump and removing him for office.
Already, Bevin has tied himself tightly to the administration, attempting to force Beshear to say where he stands on impeachment and painting him as a Democrat who will work against Trump.