Op-Ed

Larry Dale Keeling: Oh, what a dreadful race

Larry Dale Keeling
Larry Dale Keeling

FRANKFORT — Give me a sec while I ponder a bit longer on the question of which really, truly, terribly, horribly, awfully boring event playing out on the Kentucky political landscape during the past fortnight deserves first mention.

(Hmm. Thumb-twiddling. Head-scratching. Fingers making clippety-clop horsey sounds on the desk. Pacing. Repeat all of the above. Repeat a third time.)

OK, can't put it off any longer. We'll start with the latest Bluegrass Poll conducted by SurveyUSA for the Herald-Leader, The Courier-Journal, WKYT-TV and WHAS-TV. Not that this poll (or any other) is in and of itself really, truly, terribly, horribly, awfully boring. But the poll results provide a fairly clear indication of how really, truly, terribly, horribly, awfully boring the 2015 gubernatorial campaign has been.

Campaigning 24/7 during the two months since the previous Bluegrass Poll was conducted, each of the three guys who want to move into the Governor's Mansion come December managed to lose one percentage point of support. Hardly awe-inspiring. More like oww-inspiring. But certainly not surprising.

After all, Republican nominee Matt Bevin's idea of campaigning includes petulant visits to Kentucky Democratic Party headquarters (lots of votes for him to be found there) to complain about signs and telling a statewide radio audience he prefers retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson over U.S. Sen. Rand Paul as the GOP presidential nominee in 2016. Shortly after leaving the radio studio, Bevin reversed his position (doesn't he always?) and tweeted Paul's praises. Still, the dissing of a fellow (adopted) Kentucky Republican could cause a few Paul supporters to skip filling in Bevin's blank in November.

So far, Bevin's idea of campaigning apparently does not include much fund-raising or tapping into his considerable wealth to write a personal check to his general election campaign. (He did largely self-finance his primary campaign.) Small wonder the Republican Governors Association opted (for now, at least) to quit paying for almost all of the advertising promoting Bevin's candidacy.

As for Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, has anyone seen him outside a fund-raiser or one of the Q&A panels people call "debates" these days? If you have, let me know. I'll notify the milk industry to remove his picture from its cartons. If you haven't, well, Conway may want to prepare himself for experiencing what Yogi Berra described as "déjà vu all over again" from 2010, when he lost the U.S. Senate race to Paul.

Bevin is the most inept candidate in either party since Peppy Martin won the 1999 GOP nomination after Republicans decided to make a statement about public financing of gubernatorial campaigns by not fielding any legitimate contenders. Still, given Kentucky's anti-Obama sentiment, Conway cannot win in November unless he gets the Democratic base to turn out 100 percent. So far, he has done little or nothing to make this happen. His campaign has been only marginally better than Bevin's.

I expected independent Drew Curtis' poll numbers to improve following his performance in the debate at Bellarmine University, but he also regressed slightly. Stuff happens when a campaign lacks money and party support.

Looking beyond the gubernatorial election, Rand Paul nominally may still be running for president when Kentucky Republicans conduct caucuses in March. If he is, it likely will be because he's too embarrassed to drop out after putting up $250,000 in campaign funds to make the caucuses happen.

But given his poll numbers in the low (way low) single digits, Paul might be less embarrassed by dropping out now than he would be if he loses Kentucky's caucuses to another GOP candidate.

Talk about an "Ouch!"

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