In Kentucky’s 2015 Gubernatorial election, outsider businessman Matt Bevin faced an uphill battle against Jack Conway, a well-financed and popular state Attorney General. Conway and his Democratic allies in Washington spent millions attacking Bevin and damaged his image through a negative ad blitz. Furthermore, despite favoring Republicans in federal races, only one Republican had been elected Governor in the previous forty years. Bevin was also the survivor of a tightly-contested and sometimes acrimonious primary battle. FLA was brought in to help determine a path to victory against these large odds.
FLA immediately recognized and pinpointed the overwhelming unpopularity of Barack Obama and liberal Democrats. Conway had largely disassociated himself from the President and the DC establishment, despite his strong political and financial ties to those groups. Through message testing, FLA was able to provide the Bevin campaign with the strongest arguments to Kentucky voters that Jack Conway was a liberal and member of the Frankfort establishment.
Polling conducted by FLA was also influential in mapping out the political environment to the benefit of the candidate. The political environment in Kentucky strongly favored a conservative outsider over a member of the Frankfort establishment. Correctly identifying the voters Bevin was missing out on and the best ways of bringing them back into the fold showed that the race was actually much closer than the topline ballot – even leaning towards Bevin.
As the election neared, every public poll had Conway winning and conventional wisdom among the chattering classes was that Democrats would hold onto the Governor’s mansion in the Bluegrass State. However, polling conducted by FLA convinced outside independent groups to continue investing in Bevin. On Election Day, the pundits were proven wrong and Matt Bevin was elected the 62nd Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky by a comfortable 9-point margin.