Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | August 14, 2003

Kentucky will test Bush

Granted, no one wants to talk about the other elections coming this year -- in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Yet those three elections will have more to say about the Dems chances in 2004 than California's sham of an election (and its novella-sized ballot).

But don't worry, I'll continue talking about those other forgotten states.

The latest out of Kentucky is quite interesting. It's an open seat vacated by a scandal-plagued governor. Bush won handily in 2000, five of six Congressional seats are held by Republicans. Of the three states, this should be the safest bet for the GOP.

Yet the Democratic candidate and the state Democratic Party, rather than cowering in fear of impending doom, are going on the offensive:

With a tenacity that has surprised his opponent and some supporters, the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Ben Chandler, has attacked Mr. Bush's stewardship of the economy, contending that Republican policies have drained Kentucky of 56,000 jobs, aided the wealthy at the expense of the poor and helped drill a gaping hole in the state budget.

"It's hard to believe that just three years ago, Kentucky had a surplus, had an economy that was growing," Mr. Chandler, 43, said Monday at a campaign event outside a shuttered I.B.M. plant in Lexington. "What has changed is the team in charge in Washington. And my opponent is in the starting lineup."

He has mocked his Republican opponent, Representative Ernie Fletcher, as "the job terminator." He jokes that Mr. Fletcher's motto is "leave no job behind," a jab at President Bush's vow to "leave no child behind."

In short, the Democrats are running against Bush in the heart of Bush country.
The state Democratic Party has even created a Web site featuring a comic-strip depiction of an evil emperor President Bush conspiring with Mr. Fletcher to wreck the economy.
The KY GOP is walking around supremely self confident, much the same way they thought they would take out Sen. Landrieu in "Operation Icing on the Cake".

This will be a tough victory, but should offer a glimpse into 2004. If Chandler can successfully win by running against Bush in KY, expect a much more aggressive Democratic Party in 2004. Indeed, as one Kentucky Republican noted, Chandler is a guinea pig of sorts, trying to see if the new strategy fits. (It worked fine for Landrieu.)

The poll trends look good, with the latest Mellman Group poll results:

Fletcher 40
Chandler 39
Now, Mehlman is a Democratic outfit, so a certain degree of bias might be assumed. But Survey USA also polls a tight race: (June results in parenthesis)
Fletcher 48
Chandler 43
Whether the aggressive anti-Bush strategy is working remains the be seen. But it's clearly a competitive race, when, by all measures, it should be a GOP romp.

In any case, with zingers like the following one, how can we not root wholeheartedly for Chandler?

Asked if he expected the president himself to campaign for him, Mr. Fletcher said, "I sure hope so." Mr. Chandler said he would also welcome a visit by Mr. Bush.

"We'll ask him if he brought along any jobs," Mr. Chandler said.

Chandler's website

Posted August 14, 2003 03:11 PM


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