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Polls show Beshear maintaining lead, but don't put too much stock in the ups and downs, UK analyst says

Associated Press

A new poll out shows Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear dominating the governor’s race with a 16-point lead over Republican nominee Daniel Cameron. But a University of Kentucky elections specialist says there are reasons to take the shifts in polling numbers with a healthy grain of salt.

The latest survey from Emerson College and Fox56 puts the Democratic incumbent further ahead than any poll so far with just a month left in the campaign. It comes on the heels of a poll done on behalf of the conservative Club for Growth showing Cameron within just 6 points.

UK political analyst Stephen Voss doesn’t place much emphasis on the recent pendulum swings in polling.

"These small polls in Kentucky have a really large margin of error," he cautions. "To bounce one way from one poll and another way in another poll is natural, given how little data we really have. And the best interpretation is Beshear is looking like he had the lead he had before."

As for those likely voters who answer undecided, Voss says they tend to make choices based on factors in play near the final days of election seasons. On the issues that have dominated the race so far, including abortion, Voss suspects they were likely already baked into the numbers, and he sees Cameron’s slightly more moderate sounding rhetoric on abortion as a turn that might have made more of a difference in the primary.

As for why the incumbent Democrat continues to lead in a solidly red state, whether by larger or smaller margins, Voss points to two factors.

"Between Beshear's strength is urban and suburban areas and Cameron's inability to run up the sort of landslide victories Republicans usually get in Eastern and Western Kentucky, that's why Beshear seems on target to win based on the polling," he says.

Asked if pollsters might be missing something that could lead to an upset, the election specialist says some portion of the Republican electorate has at times been resistant to polling, which could lead to a stronger than expected turnout for Cameron. But, Voss adds, it’s not a trend Republicans should hang their hopes on.

Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Sean Southard responded to the polls saying, "Daniel Cameron will win November 7. Kentuckians are tired of the Biden/Beshear agenda that has given them record high inflation, rising crime, and an open southern border." He also pointed to an Emerson poll that shortchanged Cameron in the GOP primary by 15 points.

The late September poll conducted on behalf of the conservative Club for Growth PAC showed a two-point gain for the attorney general over the last month. It also put Beshear under 50%.

But there are also a couple factors that could lead election watchers to discount the numbers. First, the polling firm WPA Intelligence has a B/C grade from forecasters FiveThirtyEight, which reports the firm called races correctly about 69% of the time.

Second, as the Kentucky Gazette’s Laura Cullen-Glasscock explained in a recent WUKY interview, the broader view still appears to give Beshear the edge.

"This race is watched nationally, of course. We're one of only three states that have a gubernatorial election this year and the University of Virginia's Center for Politics and Cook Political Report, which are nonpartisan organizations, are calling this race a "leans Democrat.'"

So far no major polls have found Cameron in the lead. The closest was a June poll by Cygnal that showed the two candidates in a dead heat, a result not duplicated in the months since.

UPDATE (10/6): The story was updated to include a response from Kentucky Republican Party spokesman Sean Southard.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.