Steve Beshear's going to have to change the way Kentucky voters feel about him over the next year and a half if he wants to win reelection as Governor. Right now 44% say they would vote for his eventual Republican opponent while just 35% say they'd support him for a second term.
Beshear's biggest problem is a lack of support from within his own party. Republicans say they would vote to replace him 70-9 and independents do 45-25, but neither of those figures are anything unusual for a Democratic elected official in this political climate. But even voters within his own party only say they'd return him to office by a 58-22 margin, and he'll need to improve on that quite a bit by this time next year.
Beshear's approval numbers are actually better than his numbers for reelection, with Kentucky voters almost evenly divided on him. 38% think he's doing a good job to 39% who disapprove. The problem for him is that while 24% of Republican voters like how he's doing, only that 9% would actually vote to reelect him against their own party's candidate.
It's certainly not time for Beshear to panic. These numbers come at what may be somewhat of a low point for the Democratic Party, and things could be looking considerably sunnier a year and a half from now. And parties frequently have trouble finding a real life candidate who polls as well as a generic candidate, so a lot of Beshear's fate will be decided by who the Republicans put forward.
Nevertheless these poll numbers are an early sign that the Gubernatorial race should be much more competitive than it was in 2007. And I would expect the contest to draw a huge amount of national attention as folks try to divine its meaning in terms of Barack Obama's prospects for reelection the next year. I don't know how representative of the country as a whole Kentucky is, but that won't stop the pundits from reading a lot into whatever happens there.
Full results here