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UK Political Analyst Stephen Voss Handicaps The Gubernatorial Race

Kentucky Independent gubernatorial candidate Drew Curtis, center, replies to a question as Democratic candidate Jack Conway, left, and Republican candidate Matt Bevin look on during the Kentucky Bluegrass Poll Gubernatorial Debate at Bellarmine University

After months of sparring by the two leading candidates for governor and a sea of non-stop negative advertising, little has changed when it comes to the polls.

The current snapshot of the 2015 governor’s race looks a lot like…well, all the other snapshots.

University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss says Democratic nominee Jack Conway has good reason to think the five-point lead shown by several Bluegrass Polls isn’t a fluke.

"Once you've had a whole series of polls showing the same thing, your uncertainty starts to shrink," he says. "There's little doubt at this point that, based on the polling methodology these folks use, Conway is ahead."

But he adds that multiple variables could swing the race to GOP gubernatorial hopeful Matt Bevin.

"Polls tell you where people stand now, not where they'll stand come Election Day, so Bevin and the Republicans can hope some late shift in allegiances that basically make the polls inaccurate," he says.

Systematic flaws could also tilt poll results, the analyst notes. As for independent Drew Curtis’ chances to act as a spoiler, Voss is dubious – noting that Curtis appears to be drawing voters from both parties.

On the enthusiasm gap: "Response to this election and to these two candidates has been heavily unenthusiastic and part of it's the candidates. Neither one has run a very good campaign as judged by the craft of campaigning. They haven't really excited and mobilized voters the way a campaign can, but it's not entirely their fault. We're one year away from a highly contested Senate election, we're fatigued, and we're already looking ahead to a very important presidential election next year and this is sort of falling between the cracks."

On mudslinging: "When we look at how people actually vote, most people are not responding to these really short-term, superficial things. It moves the numbers around at the margins. It pushes this way and that, the least informed voters who have no real political commitments, but most people enter an election season... they're either Democrats or Republicans. They consistently vote the way they do and the events of the campaign don't move that vast bulk of people who show up at the polls."

On the Curtis factor: "He's not the Ralph Nader who's going to cause the Democrat to lose and give the election to a Republican as we saw in the 2000 presidential contest. he's more the Ross Perot who pulls people in the middle to express their frustration with the parties but doesn't really affect the balance because indeed he's campaigning to the middle."

On grassroots campaigning: "What you really need is a network, a party organization, the courthouse groups, the churches who are getting out there for you and mobilizing and can touch far more people than the candidate can. And Bevin's sort of limited relationship with the Republican establishment in this state, the lack of ties that he's built up prior to this campaign with the sorts of people who mobilize voters for Republicans makes me a little skeptical that he's really got that widespread field team that can be a game-changer in terms of getting turnout for his side."

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.
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