Poll: Beshear top choice over GOP rivals in 2011 governor's race

With a year left on the campaign trail, a new Kentucky Poll finds the majority of likely voters approve of the job Gov. Steve Beshear is doing and he would re-elect him over Republican challengers.

“Nothing can spark interest in Kentucky politics like a hotly contested governor's race,” said WKYT political editor Bill Bryant.

Kentuckians handed the keys to the governor's mansion to Beshear in 2007 after a bumpy ride of scandals with Republican Ernie Fletcher. Beshear selected a new running mate after Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo entered this year's race for the U.S. Senate seat being relinquished by Republican Jim Bunning, who is retiring. Mongiardo lost in a close election to Attorney General Jack Conway for the Democratic Senate nomination in the spring.

The WKYT, The Herald-Leader, and WAVE poll of 625 registered voters found Beshear and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson would easily defeat any other ticket.

Compared to Republicans Sen. David Williams and Agriculture Secretary Richie Farmer, the Democrats would win, 45 to 30 percent. Independents Gatewood Galbraith, a Lexington attorney, and Dea Riley trail with just five percent.

Compared to Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and Mike Harmon, the Beshear-Abramson ticket would score an even wider victory, 43 to 24 percent. Twenty-six percent of those poll said they’re still undecided in that match up.

Beshear has already surpassed $3 million in contributions for his re-election campaign.

Beshear's campaign reported earlier this month that he and running mate raised more than $505,000 in the July-through-September quarter. That lifts the campaign's total to $3.1 million, with more than $2.3 million still on hand, the campaign said in documents filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance in Frankfort.

University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss called Beshear's fundraising performance an impressive one that will be sobering for any would-be challenger in next year's Democratic primary.

"I expect that's going to be a good signal to ambitious Democrats that they ought to wait their turn," he said.

Beshear spent $9.7 million in his 2007 gubernatorial race, when he unseated Fletcher.

Poll Methodology

This poll was conducted on behalf of WKYT, The Lexington Herald-Leader, and WAVE-TV by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C. from October 18-19. A total of 625 registered Kentucky voters were interviewed by telephone. All said they were likely to vote in the November general election. Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers. A cross-section of exchanges was utilized in order to ensure an accurate reflection of the district. Quotas were assigned to reflect voter turn-out by county.

The margin for error, according to standards customarily used by statisticians, is no more than plus or minus four percentage points. This means that there is a 95 percent probability that the "true" figure would fall within that range if the entire population were sampled. The margin for error is higher for any subgroup, such as a gender or regional grouping.

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