A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: What’s in store for our duly sworn governor after his one term? Senate? Presidency?

Since the job of Pope is currently filled, there exists speculation aplenty over what position St. Matt the Divine, the duly sworn governor of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, might pursue once his term expires 19 months hence.

Of course, a perusal of the latest surveys, like one released last month by the Western Kentucky University Social Science Research Center, dubbed The Big Red Poll, indicate our boy Bevin at this stage would face difficulty conducting a successful campaign for dog catcher.

The poll placed Mad Matt in Hillary Clinton territory. The Democrat Clinton, perhaps the least popular presidential candidate among Kentucky voters in the commonwealth’s long history, managed to grab a paltry 32.7 percent of the vote in 2016. The Big Red Poll placed Mad Matt’s job approval at 32 percent while 56 percent offered him a thumbs down. Given that a cadaver can generally poll 30 percent, the gov looks to be in tenuous territory.

But never underestimate a committed politician’s ego, especially when you’re discussing the likes of St. Matt, who generally believes he is God’s gift to the commonwealth and that the denizens of the Bluegrass are quite lucky to have him as their leader, even though that assessment does not appear to be held by a majority of voters.

Matt Bevin

Regardless, it’s fair to say St. Matt is sniffing around for opportunities like a bloodhound. He has failed to commit to running for a second term as governor, which has elicited a general sigh of relief from Pikeville to Paducah. But there are other mountains to conquer, and every day St, Matt arises, looks in the mirror and sees a man who can emulate Sir Edmund Hillary.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Louisville, is up for re-election in 2020, at which time he will be 78 years old. McConnell already has indicated he intends to seek an unprecedented seventh term even though, as various polls indicate, he is the least popular politician in America.

St. Matt already has attempted to usurp McConnell once, challenging the GOP strongman in the 2014 Republican Senate primary, displaying a penchant for the scorched earth tactics for which he has become infamous. Mad Matt got crushed, 60.2 percent to 35.4 percent. It’s often said, in Kentucky politics at least, that there’s no lesson to be learned from the second kick of a mule. But Mad Matt hails from New Hampshire, and he may convince himself that Mitch can be had.

Then there is the presidency.

(Columnist checks the box scores, waiting for readers’ laughter to subside).

It’s pretty well established that Mad Matt wouldn’t mind setting up shop at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After all, as he might say, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And, doggone it, people like me.’’ And it’s perhaps the only address large enough to house his ego.

But there are certain roadblocks. The position currently is held by a fellow named Trump (good lord), who utilizes the same sort of political strategies – venom, insult, lies, you know the pattern – employed by St. Matt. Only better.

Trump remains adored by the Republican base, although he is despised by almost everyone else. If he is replaced as the party’s standard-bearer in 2020, it’s unlikely the powers that be will get behind his Mini-Me.

There’s always the possibility Trump won’t seek a second term. After all, it might prove difficult to wage a successful re-election campaign from San Quentin. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). In that case, there exists the real possibility the GOP primary will turn into a pier six brawl. If Vice President Mike Pence is too closely associated with a vilified Trump administration, it could open the door to an outsider like St. Matt.

Bevin has been courting various power brokers, including the Koch brothers, an indication that our boy has something up his sleeve. In January, with the General Assembly in full swing and on what was declared as a day of prayer for the victims of the high school shooting in Marshall County, Mad Matt was in California attending a confab featuring some of the GOP’s deep pocket donors. His speech there reportedly drew a standing ovation, undoubtedly attracting substantial sycophant points that could fuel his future political plans.

So a run for the presidency is not out of the question. The issue to be addressed, obviously, centers on why Mad Matt would be found more popular with the electorate from sea to shining sea than he is in the Bluegrass. And that’s a tough one to figure.

Bevin is emerging from a disastrous legislative session where he alienated a substantial portion of the Republican majority, especially in the House, where he demanded the resignation of several lawmakers, including once and perhaps future House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, for sexually harassing a female staff member. While Mad Matt’s point may have been well taken, he went too far with it as usual, belittling Hoover on several occasions and alienating the House majority.

As a result, the session was pretty much a disaster, one of the worst for a Kentucky governor in recent memory. Lawmakers ignored much of St. Matt’s budget proposal and increased taxes on certain items over his veto.

“They (lawmakers) don’t understand finance,” Bevin said. “They don’t understand pensions, and yet they are the ones that are going to have to make decisions.”

So much for getting along.

And of course, there’s more.

Mad Matt insulted the state’s teachers, who descended upon Frankfort to protest proposed changes in the pension system – a fight they ultimately lost – calling them selfish. His feud with Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat who has taken our boy to court on a handful of occasions when he overstepped his bounds, continues unabated. He remains icy in his relationship with the Frankfort press corps, seeking coverage from favorable outlets and often venturing out of state, to Cincinnati and Huntington, WVa, to spread the word about his greatness.

And now, once again, he’s lambasting Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd, one of the commonwealth’s elite jurists, for ruling against him on a motion involving the new state pension law, calling him a political hack and commenting that the commonwealth has plenty of unqualified judges.

The source on Mad Matt’s expertise on the law remains unknown. Attacking Shepherd, supremely respected and smarter than four Bevins, shows he doesn’t know a hawk from a handsaw.

So consider, St. Matt is warring with members of the legislature from his own party, the attorney general, the press, members of the state judiciary and the teachers, who hail from every one of the commonwealth’s `120 counties.

Is there any wonder why his job approval is commiserated with a dead man’s? And this jamoke thinks he’s going to maybe be a senator, a president, or even a governor for a second time?

You’re right, Matt. It’s the rest of the world that’s wrong.

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

Related Posts

2 Comments

  1. Richard Innes says:

    “Our governor?” Mr. Straub doesn’t live in Kentucky anymore.

  2. Sue Ramsey says:

    Such a shame the Pope job is filled! Isn’t there a country somewhere in need of a despot–a country far, far away? Great article!

Leave a Comment