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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Grass Turning Blue

In a bit of a surprise, former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Kentucky today, winning just over the 40% of the vote necessary to avoid a runoff. He enters the general election contest as a heavy favorite over scandal-plagued Republican incumbent Ernie Fletcher, who easily beat former U.S. Rep. Anne Northrup for the GOP nomination.Until very recently, Beshear trailed self-funded businessman Bruce Lunsford in most polls, and even after pulling ahead in the stretch run, was expected to face a runoff. The Louisville Courier-Journal credited Beshear’s late momentum to his endorsement by State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, who withdrew from the race two weeks ago. (Miller happens to be a friend of mine and a long-time DLC activist. If he couldn’t win, I’m glad he made a decisive difference in the race by withdrawing. He’s still under 40, and will be heard from in the future, I’m sure). If you’ve been following the race, you may know that Lunsford’s early lead in the polls gave a lot of Democrats heartburn, in no small part because of his endorsement of Fletcher in 2003 after he ended his own campaign that year. Tonight Lunsford endorsed Beshear relatively early in the evening, and said he’d withdraw if Beshear missed the 40% threshold. Beshear’s running-mate is Dr. Dan Mongiardo, who nearly upset Republican Sen. Jim Bunning in 2004. Fletcher also won his primary on a burst of late momentum, having trailed Northrup–who was endorsed by Bunning and by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell–in most early polls. But few observers think he can win the general election, after compiling an ethics record that would embarrass Jack Abramoff. So it’s looking good for Kentucky to turn blue this November.

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