Hillary Storms Back; Kentucky Close

Oct. 29, 2015 — The first Democratic debate is proving to be an early turning point for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Prior to that event, Clinton was reeling and facing looming challenges ahead. Her strong performance may have at least partially contributed to Vice President Joe Biden’s decision to not enter the race. Her performance before the Benghazi Committee also helped her, and its momentum is a contributing factor to now launching her to a commanding lead in the latest Iowa polls.

Loras College, which released their Republican Iowa results earlier in the week, now reports a huge Clinton advantage over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. According to this data (Oct. 19-22; 500 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) the former First Lady is now taking a massive 62-24 percent lead over Sanders among those questioned in the Iowa poll. This is quite a reversal of fortunes considering that the Vermont self-proclaimed socialist had been leading in Iowa polling before the debate.

Monmouth University, in the field just after Loras (Oct. 22-25; 400 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders), confirms the latter’s result, finding even a slightly better 65-24 percent split in Clinton’s favor.

Though we still have ample time remaining, it is this type of political climate that will allow Clinton to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination in short order. Conversely, we have seen how the race can turn on a dime so it is premature to say that this campaign is over.

Kentucky Governor

The open Kentucky governor’s race will be decided Tuesday and a new poll from Western Kentucky University (Oct. 19-26; 770 likely Kentucky general election voters) indicates that the race is still close. According to the results, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway leads Republican businessman Matt Bevin, 45-40 percent.

Like the Virginia governor’s race of 2013, when national Republican campaign strategists and party officials abandoned GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli, believing that the race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe was a lost cause, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) pulled out of the Bevin campaign during the summer because the leadership believed their nominee’s campaign was woefully sub-standard.

As we remember from Virginia, Cuccinelli only lost the race by two points despite having a lack of institutional party support. With polls consistently showing a tight Kentucky race despite Conway’s strong advantages, the RGA has returned to support Bevin with an ad buy in the neighborhood of $2 million. Before entering the campaign’s final days, Conway and the Democrats held an approximate 4:1 message communication advantage over Bevin and his allies, so this late influx of resources will help even the score.

The RGA effort is concentrating on tying Conway to President Obama. The WKU poll tells us why. Obama’s approval rating is a terrible 35:60 percent favorable to unfavorable. Conway continues to campaign on his own record, stressing independence.

Congress is viewed even more unfavorably than Obama (8:84 percent favorable to unfavorable), but the poll analysis indicates there is no particular candidate advantage for either man among those viewing the institution in a negative light.

Conway has the slight advantage, both in polling and from his campaign apparatus, headed into the final days of campaigning. The winner replaces outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

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