Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Richie Farmer, Library Tax Foes Outpoll Beshear

Newsweek's Howard Fineman (formerly of the Courier-Journal) begins his analysis of yesterday's election with the question, "Is the Bluegrass State turning Blue?" He suggests that Steve Beshear's victory over Governor Ernie Fletcher may be a harbinger of success for the Democratic nominee in next year's presidential election.

In support of his thesis, Fineman cites this example: "A generation ago, in 1967, a lawyer from southern Kentucky named Louie B. Nunn became the first Republican since World War II to be elected governor of the state. A year later Richard Nixon won the White House. " Fineman asks whether history may be about to repeat itself with party roles reversed.

Not likely. For one thing, although Beshear's margin of victory was impressive, the candidate who garnered the most votes in a statewide contest yesterday was not Beshear or any other Democrat. It was a Republican: Richie Farmer, for Agriculture Commissioner.

Farmer received 644,789 votes compared to Beshear's 619,557 votes. That hardly suggests that Kentucky will turn blue in next year's election. The Republicans' advantage is potentially even greater than this comparision suggests, given that Beshear benefited from a divided Republican party primary in the governor's race.

Fineman also points to Republican Anne Northup's loss of her congressional seat to John Yarmuth last year as evidence of the Commonwealth's move to the left. What he fails to consider, however, is that this Congressional district encompasses Jefferson County -- historically one of the most liberal counties in Kentucky. Yet even in that Democratic hot-bed, more voters cast their ballots in favor of the conservative opposition to the library tax (143,350 votes) than voted for Beshear (141,462 votes).

In fact, only one third of Jefferson County voters supported the Democratic position on the library tax. In the words of Democratic Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, he and others who campaigned for the tax got "a thumping."

To the extent that yesterday's results can be extrapolated for '08, Fineman has misread the tobacco leaves.

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