Bob Babbage on the impact of Kim Davis, Kentucky's bellwether status and fall campaigns

09/11/2015 08:59 AM

With the campaigns focusing on their fall strategy and increasing their television presence, politicians are being forced to react to the controversy surrounding Democratic Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis.

Bob Babbage, the former Democratic secretary of state and managing partner of Lexington-based lobbying firm Babbage Cofounder, described the Davis situation as “significant” in the political realm not just in 2015, but likely for politicians in years to come.

No public poll has been taken since Davis’s incarceration and release for contempt of court, but Babbage said the conventional wisdom is that she helps GOP candidate Matt Bevin in the short-term. He added that Democratic candidate Jack Conway could also potentially use it to fire up more of his base, meaning the potential net gains in new voters for either side could be evened out by Election Day.

Perhaps more importantly for the fall is the effect the Davis story and other non-issue tactics could have on turnout, he said.

“We’re off the big theme, and that’s jobs and the economy — this has nothing to do with jobs and the economy,” Babbage said.

“Really we’ve rather trivialized the race when you think about it. In the ads coming out right now one being called a pathological liar, one saying ‘you didn’t pay your taxes,’ others saying ‘yes I did,’ those aren’t necessarily issues that are motivating people around the dinner table,” he continued. “Or motivate people at all.”

As the controversy continues to take up valuable news real estate, Babbage said that there are eyes on Kentucky beyond the county clerk.

Kentucky is one of only three states including Louisiana and Mississippi holding elections in 2015, but what happens in the commonwealth may not be a good test for what will happen on the national spectrum in 2016.

“We over read elections — it’s hard to say we’re a bellwether state,” Babbage said.

“What you might learn from the Kentucky race is how to do a better job of communicating with that voter that everybody wants and everybody is looking for, but not everybody can find,” he said. “Let’s just say we have a million people voting on Election Day. … 100,000 of those folks maybe a few more are movable, and I would imagine a couple percent of either candidates support is movable too, so what factors change their minds?

“What factors get them out of bed on Election Day? That’s where you’ll study the Kentucky results.”

Watch the full interview below to hear what else Babbage had to say about the gubernatorial election and down-ballot races of note.


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