Politics

Trump heads to Kentucky to rally support for the Republican locked in a tight governors race

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump is heading to Kentucky Monday night for a rally in support of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who is running neck and neck with his Democratic challenger in the latest polls.
  • The tight battle in the state that voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016 could hint at the reelection prospects for the president himself.
  • The president has already traveled to Mississippi in support of a Republican candidate for governor, and he plans another trip to Louisiana for a rally later this week
Gov. Matt Bevin (R-Ky.) speaks at the National Rifle Association's NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during the NRA Convention at the Kentucky Exposition Center on May 20, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

On the eve of a gubernatorial election in Kentucky, President Donald Trump is heading to the state for a rally in support of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who is running neck and neck with his Democratic challenger in the latest polls.

The president has already traveled to Mississippi in support of a Republican candidate for governor, and he plans another trip to Louisiana for a rally later this week. The Kentucky and Mississippi elections are Tuesday, and the Louisiana election is in a little over a week.

Trump has been an effective campaigner for beleaguered Republicans, and the tight battles in states that voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016 could test his ability to continue to rally support despite his own political problems, including a looming impeachment inquiry and low poll numbers.

Bevin is running in a tight race for reelection against Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear. Polls show the two are tied in the contest — though Bevin, an unpopular figure in the state, has seen his support in polls rise since September, The Washington Post reported.

Trump publicly endorsed Bevin in multiple tweets in recent weeks, referring to him as a "great governor" and encouraging Kentucky voters to support him.

The Kentucky incumbent's brash campaign style aligns closely with Trump's. He often employs similar tactics, going as far as denying in debates things he's said that are readily available on tape.

Bevin has fought with teachers unions throughout his tenure as governor. He made national headlines in April when he suggested that a 7-year-old girl was shot because she was not in school, which was closed because of a teachers strike.

In a speech given at the Louisville Rotary Club, Bevin implied that the girl got shot "because [the teachers] were somewhere that they weren't intended to be, because the parent didn't have any option."

Bevin may be struggling for his political survival, but Trump, who won Kentucky with more than 62% of the vote, remains popular in the state.

According to Scott Lasley, a political science professor and department head at Western Kentucky University, "Trump is clearly an asset that Bevin has been able to employ in the state. It is Bevin's low favorability ratings that make the race competitive."

He said running toward Trump is "an attempt to capitalize on the president's appeal in the state."

Lasley added that the race is unlikely to hint at Trump's own reelection prospects.

"Whether Bevin wins or loses will ultimately have minimal impact on Trump's fortunes next year. How the Democratic presidential primary unfolds and myriad of other factors will have much more impact on Trump's reelection than anything that happens Tuesday."

Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, told The Washington Post that whether Bevin wins or loses doesn't matter to Trump's campaign prospects. If Bevin loses, "it has nothing to do with Trump," he said. "It's just Bevin."

Trump has another eye on Mississippi's gubernatorial election, in which Phil Bryant, the state's Republican governor, is not seeking reelection because of term limits. Trump in 2016 won the state by almost 18 points. The election, between Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, is closely contested, according to an October poll. Reeves holds 46% of support to Hood's 43%.

And in Louisiana, another close race, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, is facing a Nov. 16 runoff election against Republican candidate Eddie Rispone, who has Trump's endorsement.

— CNBC's Christina Wilkie contributed to this story.