Another Poll Shows Mitch McConnell In Trouble In Kentucky

Grimes McConnell

A new poll from a Republican pollster shows yet again that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces what seems to be a close race against Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) leads his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), by a single percentage point, according to a survey released Thursday by Republican pollster Wenzel Strategies.

According to the survey, 43 percent of likely Kentucky voters favor McConnell, while 42 percent favor Grimes. The lead falls within the poll’s 3-point margin of error, indicating that the race is essentially tied.

In another general election matchup, Grimes tops businessman Matt Bevin by 3 points, 39 percent to 36 percent. This also falls within the poll’s margin of error.

In the Republican primary, McConnell holds a solid lead over Bevin, 59 percent to 17 percent. Bevin does not appear to have much room for growth, as 88 percent of primary voters list their opinions as either ‘Very Firm’ or ‘Somewhat Firm’.

The automated phone survey of 1,002 voters is the latest to show the Kentucky race to be a toss-up.

Previous recent polls in Kentucky have shown a tight race as well. A Public Policy Polling poll conducted in mid-December had McConnell up by one, for example, while a Rasmussen poll conducted in early January showed the race to be a tie and a Survey USA poll conducted about two weeks ago had Grimes up by 4 points. Based on these polls, the current RealClearPolitics polling average shows Grimes up by 1/2 of a percentage point, which is effectively a tie.

Perhaps the most important numbers in the polls, though, are the ones that seem to show that Lundergan Grimes has far more room for improvement in her numbers than McConnell does:

The new poll says that Grimes has more room for growth among the Kentucky electorate than McConnell. Fifty percent of likely voters have a ‘Very Favorable’ or ‘Somewhat Favorable’ view of McConnell, while 48 percent hold ‘Somewhat Unfavorable’ or ‘Very Unfavorable’ views. Only 3 percent said they have no opinion of McConnell.

Voters are less likely to have formed opinions about Grimes. Forty-three percent of likely voters have either a ‘Very Favorable’ or ‘Somewhat Favorable’ view of her, while 36 percent have either an ‘Unfavorable’ or ‘Very Unfavorable’ view. A full 20 percent of voters have yet to form an opinion on Grimes.

Other polls have shown the same thing regarding public opinion about the two candidates. What this suggests is that McConnell’s path to victory, if it is to happen, lies not in trying to attract voters to him based on his record but in trying to undercut public opinion of Grimes via attack ads and negative campaigning. Indeed, one imagines that this is what the vast majority of McConnell’s campaign war chest, not to mention the third party spending that is likely to find its way into the race, will be spent upon in the coming months. As we’ve learned before from other races, it would be mistaken to dismiss the potential effectiveness of this kind of negative campaigning, or to dismiss the possibility that McConnell may end up winning this race in the end. However, if the negative campaigning doesn’t work then the GOP could find itself with a big problem in the Bluegrass State come November.

FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Bring on the über negative ads! :))

  2. al-Ameda says:

    It really … is … hard … to feel sorry for Mitch McConnell … and I don’t.

    I wonder who the next Republican Leader in the Senate will be: Ted Cruz? I hope so, but I doubt it. Why not Rand Paul? It will probably be some one like Tom Coburn.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Never misunderestimate old Toad-face.

  4. EddieInCA says:

    Kentucky is one of the best stories regarding the ACA (Obamacare for those inclined to not call it by it’s rightful name). If 9 months from now, the healthcare law is still humming along, with Kentucky citizens reaping the benefit, there will be alot of ant–McConnell ads which will highlight his opposition to the ACA. Meanwhile, the Democratic Kentucky governor is riding high based on his support for the ACA so there is certainly a possibility that a Democrat can win in Kentucky.

  5. JoshB says:

    This could shape up to be a perfect example of why conservatives have so vehemently opposed health care reform: people will like the end result. Instead of working together to actually solve the problem, they fought tooth and nail. McConnell could become a victim of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    Statistical tie, but McConnell holds a much bigger war chest.

    Sounds like it’s time for me to help put the ol’ Turtle on a path to retirement.

    Donate to Alison’s campaign here:

  7. Snarky Bastard says:

    McConnell’s path to victory is the same exact path as Reid in 2010 — make the race about the opponent. The big difference is Grime is most likely not Angle

  8. Pinky says:

    LBJ may turn out to be the last politician to look at the public’s opinion of him and decide not to run for reelection. We live in an Arlen Specter world now.

  9. Neil Hudelson says:


    There are certainly some Representatives who have retired in the last few years, rather than face a brutal re-election, but your general point is well taken.

  10. @al-Ameda:

    It will probably be some one like Tom Coburn.

    Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn to retire

  11. Pinky says:

    The Whip usually gets the promotion – that’s Cornyn. Third-ranking in the leadership is Thune.

  12. Kylopod says:

    @EddieInCA: The Kentucky case is interesting for several reasons. First, there’s the incident from a few months ago when a man at a Kentucky State Fair expressed interest in Kentucky’s exchange, Kynect, by hoping it’s better than Obamacare. I went to Kynect’s website and discovered that the site doesn’t mention Obamacare at all, and the FAQ actually makes it sound like Gov. Beshear unilaterally decided to set up the exchanges on his own, without prompting from a federal law.

    Later, Beshear essentially admitted in an interview that the success of the law in a red state depended in part on recipients not realizing that what they’re signing up for is Obamacare. I was surprised by his candor–but then, Beshear is currently serving his second term in a state with a two-term limit for governors, and by the time his term is up in 2015, he’ll be 71 years old. Presumably he has some interest in ensuring that his successor is a Democrat, but he no longer needs to save his own neck politically.

    Of course I’m sure not all recipients will be that ignorant. A recent article related an anecdote of one Kentuckyan who was well aware she was benefitting from Obamacare, but hated Obama anyway. Particularly striking was her statement, “If I had to think of one thing good about him, it’s the insurance.” I’m reminded a bit of conservatives I’ve known who are on food stamps but still bash the welfare state. They always think that their situation is different, that it doesn’t represent the majority of beneficiaries to the program. I think we’re going to be seeing a similar thing with Obamacare. The question is whether it will actually change anyone’s mind politically; with the combination of ignorance and cognitive dissonance, that’s hardly a sure thing.