By Derek DeBurger
After his four-year term is up, Gov. Andy Beshear, who won reelection in the ruby-red state of Kentucky by a margin of five points against Republican challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron, cannot run for another term in 2031 per state law. The question then becomes: what will Beshear do next?
I believe that Beshear will try his hand at a presidential bid in 2028.
One of the most popular governors in the country
According to a poll released by Morning Consult, Andy Beshear is the fifth most popular governor in the entire country. Despite being the governor of a state that voted for former president Donald Trump in 2020 by a margin of 26 points, Beshear has a 49% approval rate to just 48% disapproval among registered Republicans in the state.
Beshear has been able to reach such a high approval rating for a few reasons. His reputation is built on being someone who is more than willing to work with the other side of the aisle to get things done. Despite being a Democratic governor in a state with a house and senate both controlled by Republicans, Beshear has been able to get a lot of legislation passed. Beshear signed medical marijuana and legal sports betting into law, and he was able to help secure funding for the first hospital in West Louisville in over 150 years.
Leader of a growing state economy
Another massive reason is that the Kentucky economy has boomed ever since Beshear took office in 2019. In 2022, Kentucky saw the highest growth rate of general fund receipts—the money in a government budget that isn’t for a specific purpose—in 31 years.
The general fund receipts now total $14.7 billion, and it is a big part of the reason that Kentucky has experienced its two biggest surpluses in history in 2021 and 2022. There have also been record job opportunities introduced to Kentucky with Ford and SK Innovation bringing an estimated five thousand jobs to the state, and Envision AESC to bring an estimated two thousand jobs.
In May, these new job opportunities brought the unemployment rate to a record low of 3.8%. All of these factors, plus an expected 18,000 new jobs to be introduced in the coming years, have led S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings to upgrade Kentucky’s financial outlook from “stable” to “positive”.
All of these are surefire, bipartisan ways to get support from everyone regardless of political affiliation, but what is probably the biggest reason for his high approval rating and popularity is that he seems like a genuinely nice person. Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, was well known for being incredibly kind to everyone he met, and the current Governor has taken that reputation and ran with it. In an age where politicians are universally hated across partisan lines, it’s nice to see someone who can get along with people.
How it adds to a presidential bid
Being likable is great and all, and it’s very important for a candidate’s electability, but why the presidency? As I mentioned before, Beshear cannot run for a third consecutive term of governor, and there is no other position in state government that isn’t a step-down. If Beshear were to run for the U.S. House of Representatives he would be looking to unseat Rep. Morgan McGarvey—a fellow Democrat—and if he were to run for the U.S. Senate, he would have a more than difficult time beating out one of the two Republican incumbents.
If none of the rungs on the ladder look stable why not just jump to the top?
There’s precedent, too, for politicians going straight from governor to President. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton were all governors of their home states directly before being elected President, with Reagan as the only one who was not governor within two years of entering the White House. As southern Democrats, Presidents Carter and Clinton could offer replicable molds for what can succeed in a run to be top banana.
Governor Beshear isn’t the only one who will be running in 2028, although that would make things much easier for him. State governors Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, and Glenn Younkin, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are all potential candidates for 2028 not including candidates that will come out of nowhere and make a splash.
There’s also the question of what will be the deciding factors for voters in five years. It’s a nearly impossible task to determine the issues of tomorrow, but I’ve always believed—ever since my dad told me this when Obama was elected—that voters just vote for whoever is the opposite of the last President. Biden and Trump may be ideologically opposed, but one thing that is guaranteed to be the opposite of either candidate is someone with youth. Governor Beshear will be 49 years of age by election night 2028, significantly younger than the 85 and 83 that Biden and Trump will be respectively.
I’m also going to go on a limb here and say something that might be very unpopular: Donald Trump getting elected as the 47th President of the United States helps Beshear’s chances in 2028 more than a Biden reelection. I think it’s worse for the country, but better for Andy Beshear.
I know it’s early, and I know Beshear still has four more years in office and I know we haven’t even gotten through the 2024 election yet. For some of you, hell, most of you, the last thing you want to think about is another Presidential election.
I just want to be among the first to say “I told you so.”
Photo Courtesy // Andy Beshear, Instagram