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Fletcher’s chances depend on support from others in GOP




With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans in Kentucky by a margin of nearly 2-1, conventional wisdom says that for a Republican candidate to be successful in a statewide race, that candidate must receive nearly all of the Republican vote plus the votes of a large number of Democrats.

That’s what happened in 2003, when Ernie Fletcher became the first Republican to be elected governor in 32 years. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler was greatly damaged by a brutal primary campaign against Bruce Lunsford, who further weakened Chandler by endorsing Fletcher in the fall campaign. Meanwhile, Republicans were united in their support for Fletcher, then a member of U.S. House of Representatives representing the Sixth District and the hand-picked candidate of Sen. Mitch McConnell.

What a difference four years can make. While the other Democratic candidates for governor gave their full support to Democratic nominee Steve Beshear immediately after the May 22 primary, Republicans Anne Northup and Billy Harper have been silent since losing to Fletcher in the GOP primary. However, before the primary, they both repeatedly said the governor could not win re-election.

While the reluctance of Northup and Harper to rally behind the governor who defeated them in May could be dismissed as sour grapes, they are not the only Republicans to be lukewarm in their support for the governor’s re-election.

Remember Steve Pence? His influence in Frankfort went from considerable to zilch immediately after he said he would not seek a second term as lieutenant governor. Pence still is the lieutenant governor, but exactly what he is doing in that role is anyone’s guess. One thing he is not doing is campaigning for Fletcher’s re-election. At least for the time being, the once-promising political career of Steve Pence _ a former U.S. attorney who doubled as Fletcher’s justice secretary before his split with the governor _ has been derailed.

A number of elected Republicans _ including U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning and state Rep. John Vincent of Ashland _ endorsed Northup in the May primary. If Fletcher has attempted to get their support in the General Election, it has not been noticed.

Bunning recently said he had urged Fletcher to support putting the expanded gambling issue on the ballot. Instead, the governor has done the exact opposite.

While Fletcher previously had indicated that he would allow a gambling amendment to be placed on the ballot, he now has made his opposition to Beshear’s support of expanded gambling the centerpiece of his campaign.

Bunning said that position could work against the governor in northern Kentucky, one of the strongest Republican regions of the state. While an anti-gambling plank may play well with Southern Baptists and other conservative Protestants in other parts of Kentucky, the politically conservative Catholics in northern Kentucky take a somewhat different view of gambling.

We’re not ready to concede this election to Beshear, not with what many expect to be a brutal campaign still to come and the governor having plenty of money to spend. But we will say this: Besides winning the votes of a lot of Democrats, Fletcher needs to do a much better job of uniting Republicans. If he can’t, he could soon find himself out of a job.

– The Daily Independent, Ashland


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