By Lesley Clark | For the Lexington Herald-Leader
WASHINGTON — Gov. Matt Bevin dismissed polling that shows him struggling with voters as he runs for a second term — and said he welcomes having President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence come to Kentucky to campaign for him.
Speaking at a Politico event in advance of the coming National Governors Association winter meeting, the Kentucky Republican said he pays no attention to polls. A January Morning Consult poll found him with a 51 percent disapproval rating.
“There has never been a poll ever taken … done by anyone, including people who want to be supportive, that has ever found me above water or likely to win anything, ever,” Bevin said. “I have never led in any poll or been popular in any survey that has ever been done.”
But he said he won the governor’s race and 106 out of 120 counties in 2015, despite trailing in the polls.
“Polls, schmolls, “ he said.
Bevin also defended his decision last month to replace Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton with state Sen. Ralph Alvarado on his re-election ticket, saying it wasn’t driven by personal or political reasons.
Bevin called it a “pragmatic, business-like” decision. He noted Alvarado is both a medical doctor and a state legislator and can better help the state deal with the administration’s effort to overhaul Kentucky’s Medicaid program.
“He is more equipped and qualified than even I on some of these areas,” Bevin said.
The governor dismissed questions whether the change was politically motivated, He contended that few people in Kentucky would even be able to identify a lieutenant governor.
“They don’t really help a ticket” win votes during a campaign, Bevin said.
Bevin, who said he talks regularly with Trump, said the president has told him he’d come campaign for him in Kentucky. Bevin said he’d be “delighted” to have him there.
He added Vice President Mike Pence has said he will campaign in the state as well.
“They’re both good friends and good people,” he said.
A national Democratic-leaning group has already targeted Bevin, showing digital ads that urge voters to reject him. He faces a Republican primary and a field of Democrats, including Attorney General Andy Beshear, House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and the former state Auditor Adam Edelen.
Bevin had prompted speculation that he was thinking of another challenge against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but said he’s developed a “great” relationship with McConnell, R-Kentucky, whom he challenged in the 2014 GOP Senate primary.
“There’s nobody more pragmatic and masterful and calculated in what he does politically,” he said of McConnell, adding that the only time he’s not voted for the senior Kentucky senator was when he ran against him in the primary.
Still, Bevin, who ran to McConnell’s right during the primary, said they don’t always see “eye to eye” ideologically and Bevin said he believes he’s more conservative than McConnell on some issues.
“But truth be told, pragmatism in his estimation sometimes trumps ideology and he is probably right,” Bevin said.