McConnell Has A Small Lead In Kentucky
A new Public Policy Polling poll has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with a small lead over his Democratic challenger in what looks to be one of the few 2014 races where the GOP has to worry about defending a seat:
PPP’s newest Kentucky poll finds Mitch McConnell taking a small lead, with 44% to 40% for Alison Lundergan Grimes, and 7% for Libertarian David Patterson. Patterson’s supporters say if they had to choose between the major party candidates they would pick McConnell by a 44/34 spread, and when you reallocate those voters to their second choice it leaves McConnell with a 47/42 advantage.
In early April we found Grimes leading McConnell 45/44. The main thing that’s changed since then is McConnell seeing some consolidation in his base. At that point, in the middle of his primary fight with Matt Bevin, he had only a 49 point advantage with Republican voters at 69/20. Now in the two way contest he is up 67 points with GOP voters at 78/11, and when you include the Libertarian his advantage is 63 points at 72/9. That unification of Republicans accounts for most of the change we’ve seen over the last four months.
This is the first time PPP has looked at approval and favorability ratings for McConnell and Grimes since December, and although he remains unpopular McConnell’s seen improvement on that front as well. Then he had a 31/61 approval spread, but now it’s improved to 37/54. That shift is also largely a function of movement among Republican voters- he’s gone from having just a 47/41 approval rating with them up to 58/30 now. Grimes has seen her name recognition increase from 68% to 86% over that period of time but there’s been little shift in her net favorability- she’s gone from -6 at 31/37 to -4 at 41/45.
Barack Obama’s unpopularity in Kentucky continues to make the landscape difficult for Democrats- only 32% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 63% who disapprove. 38% of the voters who disapprove of McConnell also disapprove of Obama, and among that group McConnell is receiving 20% of the vote, which is how you get to 44% of the vote with only a 37% approval rating.
All said the race remains close and McConnell remains unpopular- and among the undecided voters McConnell has just a 10% approval rating to 66% of voters who disapprove of him. So Grimes should at least have a chance with those folks.
These numbers are consistent with other polling that we’ve seen in this race, especially since the bitterly fought primary battle between McConnell and Matt Bevin. With the exception of a handful of polls that now appear to be outliers, McConnell has maintained a consistent albeit narrow lead over Grimes. In the RealClearPolitics average, McConnell has a three point lead. While this is within the margin of error, it has been growing of late, possibly indicating that the voters who have been sitting on the sidelines are starting to move in McConnell’s direction. In no small part, this is due to President Obama’s unpopularity in the state, but one cannot dismiss McConnell’s political acumen either. The Senator has been in tight races before, and he’s managed to pull out of a win, betting against him now would be foolish.