This year, Republicans may be heading for a rough election in an unlikely state: Kentucky.
New internal Democratic polls reveal that the GOP is struggling in three critical Kentucky races taking place in November. In the gubernatorial race, incumbent GOP Gov. Matt Bevin is trailing Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear 48 to 39.
Further down the ballot, the GOP is also vulnerable. In the attorney general race to replace Beshear, former Democratic state House Speaker Greg Stumbo is ahead 46 to 39 against Republican Daniel Cameron, the former legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And in the secretary of state race, where incumbent Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is retiring, Democratic former Second Lady of Kentucky and Miss America 2000 pageant winner Heather French Henry leads GOP former Justice Department lawyer Michael Adams 52 to 37.
Internal polls are notoriously favorable to the campaign commissioning them. However, these polls are in line with the general consensus that these races are competitive — and a potential headache for Republicans.
Kentucky is an overwhelmingly conservative state, but Democrats have traditionally had success at the state level, and Bevin in particular is deeply unpopular after three years of intraparty fighting and trying to cut health care and teacher benefits. President Donald Trump, however, has vowed to help the GOP win, even planning a rally on Bevin's behalf.
For many outside observers, the Kentucky elections may also become a proxy fight against McConnell, as Cameron and Adams have both worked for him and are broadly considered his proteges. If they are defeated, it may draw more interest to the 2020 Senate race itself, where McConnell is seeking a seventh term.
McConnell is not generally considered vulnerable going into 2020, as he has a deeply partisan electorate and a bottomless war chest, but his poll numbers among his constituents have consistently been among the lowest of any senator in the United States. A number of Democrats have expressed interest in running against him — former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath has already launched her campaign, and sports radio host Matt Jones and state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins are both considering bids as well.