Sam Youngman

Sam Youngman: Is Bevin snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

Is Matt Bevin trying to lose the race for governor?

The Republican candidate's sometimes bizarre behavior, oscillations on major policy issues and lack of advertising have all combined to make Bevin one of Democrat Jack Conway's top allies with a month to go until Election Day.

That might help explain Bevin's ill-advised and jaw-dropping decision to show up at Kentucky Democratic Party headquarters on Friday to complain to the receptionist about the sign KDP has outside its building questioning Bevin's trustworthiness.

It was Bevin's second trip to the headquarters to complain about the sign. He videotaped the first while standing on the side of the highway.

Instead of standing in KDP's lobby complaining about a sign, Bevin could have been clarifying his positions on Medicaid and early childhood education; raising much-needed cash for television advertising; or working to repair relationships with Republicans who still don't like him.

In light of a Monday report by the Associated Press, it's clear that Bevin could be spending his time more wisely.

The AP reported that the Republican Governors Association — the only source of water keeping Bevin afloat this summer — has pulled out of the state after spending $3 million on advertising.

It's not unusual for Washington campaign groups to pull up stakes, triage and spend their money in races where they've got a better shot of winning.

But the race in Kentucky is about the only show in the country this year, and it's certainly the most competitive.

This is about as strange as it gets, and in this Willy Wonka chocolate factory of a race, that's really saying something.

That the RGA has gone dark in Kentucky is even more curious when you consider that Bevin met with the group in Indianapolis just last Thursday at the same time the rest of Kentucky's GOP slate was in Louisville with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush raising money for the state party.

It certainly seems possible that the well-funded group simply got tired of being the only ones picking up the check.

Bevin has run exactly one ad since he won the nomination last spring in what could charitably be called a modest buy of about $200,000.

Bevin's spokeswoman told the Associated Press that they will return to the air with another ad on Wednesday, and according to those who track media buys, Bevin did spend about $75,000 on TV advertising Wednesday.

The RGA and similar groups will spend money — a lot of money — to get a candidate elected, but they expect that candidate to raise and spend money to help him or herself, too.

Imagine Jerry Maguire standing in the RGA locker room, pleading with Bevin: "Help me help you!"

It certainly doesn't appear that Bevin has done that, and a $75,000 ad buy is unlikely to convince RGA officials that he is serious about investing in his campaign.

So, in the worst political environment imaginable for Democrats and after weeks of measuring drapes for the governor's mansion, Bevin is, for the time being, all alone and seemingly going out of his way to lose a very winnable race.

Conway has certainly not set the world on fire with his campaign, vague policy proposals or charm. And he has taken much criticism for his campaign strategy of focusing on fundraising instead of traditional campaign rallies.

But Bevin seems to be working very hard to make Conway's campaign strategists look like geniuses.

Despite swearing off self-financing during last year's U.S. Senate race, Bevin has gone through two campaigns largely by drawing heavily from his own bank account.

If Bevin wants more of the RGA's help, he better show them the money.

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