Some Kentuckians will head to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots to select nominees for the fall election. There are three things I’ll be watching for that could decide the GOP primary race for governor, and predict the outcome of future elections.
Secretary of State Michael Adams is predicting low voter turnout on Tuesday. Despite early voting efforts, turnout is expected to be low thanks in part to an increase in independent registration and possible frustration with negative campaigning. Kentucky’s closed primary elections only allow Republicans or Democrats to vote for their candidate to represent them in the General Election.
A low voter turnout could create the recipe for an upset from an underdog in the Republican gubernatorial primary with a dozen candidates seeking the GOP nomination.
How Well Does Deters Do?
Northern Kentucky firebrand Eric Deters is trying to capture the essence of Trump – he’s a political outsider, braggadocio, and carries a populist message. Deters has the ability to be a spoiler in a low-turnout primary.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron, former Ambassador Kelly Craft, and Deters are all running a nationalized race. Cameron has the endorsement of Trump, Craft brought in Ted Cruz and previously served the Trump administration, but it’s Deters who is willing to scream and yell at the top of his lungs in support of the former president and that could bring him significant votes.
Previous polling places Deters in the top five, in a low turnout election it is possible Deters numbers do not shrink, as his base is as fired up and immovable as he is, and that means he would effectively take votes from other candidates – likely Cameron and Craft. Peeling off votes could set up a lane for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles to cut the frontrunners and finish on top.
At the same time, it’s also safe money that Cameron has a base that is just as hardcore in their support for him, and it is Craft who is hurt the most as she is garnering most of her support through television ads. Generally, the support from low-level contact like television is the first to drop off and stay at home in low-turnout elections. If that happens she could drop back in the results.
Picture it like this. The number of primary voters expected to turn out on Tuesday is roughly what Churchill Downs can hold at capacity. With 12 people vying for that audience, the total number of people needed to win becomes incredibly low. The person with the most solid base that can get enough of their people to turn out will win.
The former ambassador has spent a ton of money – the most recent dollar figure reaches over $9 million of her own cash. She could be spending even more in the run-up to Tuesday night. With that kind of cash on the line, her results matter. It will inform how campaigns are run in the future and if nationalizing a race with an outside agency spending heavily on television is a winning strategy in Kentucky. She is also the only candidate to name a running mate before the primary, the results will shape strategy in the future.
After the results on Tuesday, it will also be interesting to watch who is selected as a running mate for the winning candidate, and if a slate is formed out of the ranks of previous competitors.