26 Days to Election Day: Kentucky

Kentucky is considered a border state. To a large extent, it is conservative and Republican. In 2008, McCain easily won Kentucky. Obama managed to win the Louisville area and some swaths of real estate along the northern border and some territory east of Frankfort. He can kiss that area good-bye this year. The key word in Kentucky, as in the next entry tomorrow, is coal! Specifically, Obama’s war on coal. Hence, Romney will easily capture Kentucky’s eight electoral votes.

The current House delegation is 4-2 in favor of the Republicans. Not much should change in 2012 although if it does, it will be to the advantage of the GOP. In the western rural 1st District, Republican Ed Whitfield, who has held the seat since 1994 (the first Republican since the Civil War), should have no problem against newcomer Charles Hatchett. Likewise, Brett Guthrie in the west-central rural 2nd District against the better known perennial Democratic candidate, Dave Williams.

In the Third District, which encompasses all of Louisville, Democratic incumbent John Yarmuth faces Republican Brooks Wicker and should easily win reelection. This is the most liberal of Kentucky’s districts and Yarmuth has been an early and vocal critic of Mitt Romney. In the eastern 5th District, held by Republican Hal Rogers, this is the heart of Kentucky coal country. Rogers is considered a pragmatic conservative who usually pulls in near or above 70% of the vote. Rogers turned down a gubernatorial bid in 2003 in favor of Congress. He stands is stark opposition to the staunchly pro-union Democratic candidate Kenneth Stepp who should go down to easy defeat.

That leaves the 6th and 4th Districts. The Fourth is an open race after Republican Geoff Davis announced his retirement. This came as somewhat of a surprise to the GOP. In the Republican primary, Thomas Massie managed to defeat two better known candidates- Alecia Webb-Edgington, a state legislator, and Gary Moore. Webb-Edgington had the backing of the Kentucky political establishment while Massie had Tea Party support. Once again, as with the case of Rand Paul in 2010, the Kentucky establishment is showing some political weakness in the state. Running along the northern border of Kentucky, this is some of the most conservative territory in the state and Democrat Bill Adkins is fighting an almost impossible battle. This race should also put Mitch McConnell on notice for 2014 that although he may be the current Minority Leader in the Senate, his political power- or, the power of the political establishment in the state- seems to be playing second fiddle to the Tea Party at this point.

If there is to be a flipped district this year, it will be the Sixth which lies in the central part of the state. Here, Democratic incumbent Ben Chandler barely won reelection in 2010 and beat his challenger by only 648 votes. That challenger, Andy Barr, will be his opponent again this year. But, allow me to explain why I think this year will be a little different. First, although Obama remains a bad word in Kentucky, the political atmosphere is not the same as in 2010. Second, in 2010 Barr received heavy Tea Party support and although he came close, he still lost. This year, the Tea Party has decided to sit out this race, although Barr has received the endorsement of popular Senator Rand Paul. However, whether this is enough to boost Barr remains to be seen. Third, Chandler was caught by surprise in 2010, but was better prepared this year. Fourth, Chandler’s fundraising this year lags about $100,000 below 2010’s level while Barr’s is down over $500,000. Most of that is the loss of PAC money. Fifth, if Barr could not take Chandler down in a Republican wave midterm year, its doubtful he will come as close in a non-wave presidential year. It will be close again, but not as close as 700 votes and I am predicting a Chandler victory.

Like some other states this year, the only question on the ballot is a fishing and hunting rights amendment. A similar measure was recently defeated in neighboring Tennessee. Once again, although there are no active animal rights group efforts in the state, this is a preemptory attempt to head off any attempts to limit hunting and fishing in Kentucky. The state estimates that hunting by out-of-state sportsmen generates $100 million in economic activity annually. Opponents of the measure note that such an amendment may potentially lead to violations of existing state hunting and fishing laws such as catches out-of-season, on public lands like nature preserves, etc. It should be noted that most of these efforts, generally the work of the NRA’s legislative action arm, do not intend to tie the hands of the states beyond laws that currently exist and attempt to insure that if changes are made, they are made legislatively or bureaucratically, not judicially where gun owners generally have less clout.

In conclusion: Give Mitt Romney Kentucky’s 8 electoral votes with no changes in the congressional delegation. One Republican will replace another retiring Republican in the Fourth District.

Running totals thus far: Romney leads in the electoral vote count, 154-108. Republicans lead the Senate 34-16 while they also lead in House seats, 122-90.

Next: West Virginia