In Kentucky and Mississippi, Republican candidates for governor are going all out in their campaigns, and they’re not shy about criticizing President Biden. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, both GOP nominees, often mention Biden as much as they do their actual opponents.
This strategy of tying local candidates to national political figures is a well-established tactic, demonstrating the growing ideological divisions in the country. It allows candidates to create a quick and easy way for voters to identify them as part of the “us” or “them” group, without needing strong evidence of a connection.
It’s no surprise that Republicans in these states are eager to vilify Joe Biden. In the 2020 presidential election, Trump won 62% of the vote in Kentucky and 58% in Mississippi, even though he ultimately lost to Biden. Therefore, if the Republicans hope to generate a high voter turnout for their candidates, it makes sense for them to emphasize their opposition to the Democratic president.
These gubernatorial campaigns in Kentucky and Mississippi could serve as trial runs for the messaging strategies that will be used in the 2024 presidential election, when Biden is expected to be on the ballot again. While Mississippi already has a Republican incumbent and Kentucky has a Democrat seeking a second term, there are significant similarities between the two races.
— Scott Stroud (@ScottStroud1) October 2, 2023
In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear has a well-known name in state politics. He is the son of Steve Beshear, the last Democrat to win the governor’s office, and he has successfully portrayed himself as a bipartisan leader. Despite being associated with the Democratic Party, Beshear rarely mentions Biden or Trump and avoids getting involved in national politics.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Democrat Brandon Presley is facing attacks from Republicans who prefer to mention Biden instead of referring to him by name. Presley’s last name carries weight, as he is a cousin of rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley. Governor Reeves refers to him as “that individual” rather than using his name.
Although the Democratic candidates have their unique selling points, Republicans like Daniel Cameron and Tate Reeves are using Biden as a scapegoat for pocketbook issues and economic policies they disagree with. Cameron blames Biden’s economic policies for the rise in consumer prices, while Reeves warns of the threat from Presley and other national Democrats.
Despite these attacks, the Democratic candidates are focused on local issues and their own platforms. They are eager to distance themselves from national politics and emphasize their commitment to their states. Presley wants to reduce the tax on groceries in Mississippi and expand Medicaid, while Beshear boasts about his stewardship of the state during a period of economic growth.
As the campaigns heat up, voters in Kentucky and Mississippi can expect to see candidates fighting passionately for their votes while simultaneously trying to outdo each other in associating their opponents with President Biden and national Democrats. It remains to be seen how effective these strategies will be in November’s general election.