By John David Dyche
Pope Francis met with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. Judging from this week's Kentucky Sports Radio gubernatorial debate, our entire state is in desperate need of divine intervention.
The three candidates -- Republican Matt Bevin, Democrat Jack Conway, and independent Drew Curtis -- tried to outdo each other in alienating voters. The host, Matt Jones, was more impressive than any of them.
Bevin made the biggest blunder by saying he would vote for Dr. Ben Carson for president. That answer is bad enough in its own right, since Carson is obviously not up to the presidency. It was even worse, however, because Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is also running for president, had just announced he would campaign with Bevin in a few days.
After the debate, Bevin tried to backtrack, of course, but the damage was done, both to Bevin and to Paul's already beleaguered presidential campaign. Bevin's post-debate attempt to disavow his own words is his modus operandi on many issues.
The most notorious topic on which Bevin has been all over the board is expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. He made matters even more confusing with a meandering, incoherent response that Insider Louisville reporter Joe Sonka correctly called "complete gibberish."
Bevin at least got off a couple of snappy comebacks. When Jones noted that Conway did not actually answer the presidential question, Bevin rightly retorted, "Get used to that." Conway was characteristically evasive and wishy-washy throughout.
When Curtis incredibly claimed that he could not remember for whom he voted in 2012, Bevin jabbed that it meant he voted for Obama. Bevin is clearly better at sarcastically counterpunching than at directly answering questions.
Curtis had earned some respect with his performance at the Bellarmine University debate. He blew it by saying he would vote for Donald Trump for president.
Really, Drew? You try to project a common-sense, fact-based image but would back a Trump, who proposes deporting all illegal immigrants, has taken almost every conceivable position on every issue, and regularly insults his opponents and makes misogynistic remarks?
Curtis strained to qualify his answer at the time and tried even harder to walk it back after the debate. He is not expected to be on the stage for the next debate at Centre College.
The best part of the KSR debate was when Jones went one-on-one with the candidates. That format allowed him to follow-up on their answers and cross-examine them like the lawyer he is.
Jones bested Bevin after the Republican accused him of not doing his homework about past gubernatorial candidates other than John Y. Brown, Jr. who had refused to release their tax returns. Bevin sputtered when Jones demanded that Bevin name one.
After Bevin's acid-trip of an answer on expanded Medicaid, Jones politely hammered Conway on funding sources for the Democrats' panoply of costly proposals. Bottom line: there are none. On the bright side for Conway, nobody laughed out loud when he claimed he would "hold the line" on taxes.
Without a trace of irony, Bevin claimed that current governor Steve Beshear -- the guy he criticizes for boldly expanding Medicaid -- was popular because he had not done anything. If inaction makes for popularity, Conway will get a ticker-tape parade.
Shortly after the debate, a Bluegrass Poll showed Conway ahead of Bevin by five points, 42 percent to 37 percent, but the poll's margin of error was 3.8 percent. Curtis, still essentially unknown, came in at 7 percent. So consider the race a toss-up as election guru Larry Sabato rated it the next day.
This all happened against the backdrop of the Republican Governors Association's surprising announcement that it was discontinuing television advertising for Bevin. Speculation swirls about why, and one major media outlet even ran a "news" item dedicated to the "rumors."
The sad conclusion is that we in Kentucky are doomed whoever wins for governor. So, Pope Francis, please forget about Kim Davis. She already has Bevin, Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz on her side. Pray for the rest of us instead.
(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)
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