It looks like Steve Beshear could have a tough fight for reelection as Kentucky's Governor in 2011, with a pair of potential Republican opponents polling within the margin of error against him.
Beshear leads recently defeated Republican Senate candidate Trey Grayson 41-38 and trails Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer 40-39.
Voters are pretty ambivalent toward Beshear right now with 38% approving of his job performance, 35% disapproving, and 26% holding no opinion one way or the other. Those numbers are actually pretty decent given that in May we found the average Governor nationally has a 47% disapproval rating, but they still show him pretty vulnerable to a challenge next year.
Farmer, a former Kentucky basketball player, has exceptional personal favorability numbers. 39% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him while 14% see him unfavorably. That +25 spread is better than PPP has found for any challenger running in a Senate or Gubernatorial race across the country in 2010. Farmer has very positive numbers with Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.
Grayson's numbers are not as impressive with 24% of voters holding a favorable opinion of him and 21% viewing him unfavorably. It's worth noting though that the +3 spread is a lot better than -8 we found for Rand Paul on this poll, a reminder that Republicans would probably be headed for an easy victory in the Senate race this fall if they had nominated the 'safe' candidate.
Despite Farmer being so much more popular than Grayson he doesn't fare all that much better in a head to head because Democrats liking him doesn't necessarily translate into their being willing to vote for him as Governor. Tom Osborne learned the hard way in the 2006 Nebraska Governor's race that no matter how popular you may be in a sports context it won't necessarily carry over to politics.
Kentucky is probably not very representative of the country as a whole but this race is going to get a ton of national attention next fall for what it might tell us about the mood of the electorate headed into 2012 and for now it looks like it has the potential to be a very close race. Another Beshear blowout on scale with what he did in 2007 is not very likely.
Full results here