Even though some loyal supporters wonder about the ultimate legitimacy of the campaign, that lack of confidence is not shared by the candidates themselves. In an interview, both Galbraith and Riley expressed confidence that circumstances are lining up for them to pull off an epic shocker this fall.
“We have the perfect storm brewing,” Riley said. “I¿think Kentucky can expect an upset.”
Though neither is a Rand Paul supporter, both said Paul’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate last year — first defeating an established Republican in the primary and then a better-funded Jack Conway in the general election — is a sign that voters in Kentucky are fed up enough with the status quo to take a chance on something different.
“They broke through for Rand Paul and they will do it again,” Galbraith said.
In Beshear and Williams, they see lackluster opponents who don’t inspire much passion or confidence even among their own parties.
Williams’ weak showing in the Republican primary against two little known opponents is an indication that the GOP vote can be siphoned off, and Galbraith has the kind of anti-big government bona fides to pull in Tea Partiers. Beshear is largely unpopular among state workers who make up a large block of likely voters, Galbraith said.
And as the campaign heats up and Williams and Beshear start attacking each other with never-ending television ads, Galbraith said his grassroots campaign will start looking better and better.
“You know what’s going to motivate people to vote for us? When the two parties start in on each other, when it starts getting nasty, it will turn people off and they’ll start looking for alternatives,” Galbraith said. “If they vote for Beshear, it’s more of the same. With Williams, it’s worse.”
Galbraith and Riley know their campaign will be massively outspent. They have raised $150,000 so far and believe $450,000 will be enough for them to effectively get their message out. They hope to make up the difference in fundraising by taking full advantage of new technologies and media to reach voters.
Riley, who used to market ski resorts in Utah before returning to her native Kentucky, brings a media savvy to Galbraith’s campaign that he has lacked in the past.
“We have the largest social media following of all the candidates, and the largest database of all the candidates,” said Riley, 42, a divorced mother of six.
Cross, the long-time political watcher, said Galbraith will have trouble raising money because big-time donors either don’t like his politics or are afraid he can’t win. But he can offset that disadvantage by using social media effectively, he said.
“He can flash mob, he can tweet, he can Facebook and do the other social media things smart campaigns do and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do that,” Cross said.
There are 195,000 registered independent voters in Kentucky. Galbraith said he believes in a three-way race, 450,000 votes will be enough to win the governor’s race. It’s a number he believes he will achieve as his campaign slowly but surely captures the attention of voters.
Galbraith said he is also counting on “the stealth vote” — people who are supporting him privately but are “too shy” to publicly admit they are backing a candidate whose colorful past has put him well outside the mainstream.
“We’ve been running for two years now. There’s five month’s to go. Most of the momentum comes in that last 30 days,” Galbraith said. “I’ve been at this along time — 40 years — I’ve traveled this state many times over in a lot of races, and I’ve never felt the kind of support I feel now.”