Rasmussen: McConnell Behind In Kentucky
“Wow.” That’s Matthew Yglesias’ first reaction to a Rasmussen poll that shows just-nominated Democrat Bruce Lunsford leading Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell here in Kentucky. He goes on to say that, “you kind of figure that McConnell will probably pull this one out, but it’s a real sign of how desperate the Republican situation is.”
Commenter Mark Byron counters that this poll was taken two days after a hard fought primary race in which Lunsford and his opponent were, as he cleverly put it, “Mitch-slapping McConnell pretty good” while McConnell ran, for all practical purposes, unopposed.
Mr. Byron has the right of it, I think. According to Rasmussen:
John McCain leads Barack Obama by twenty-five percentage points. However, just 67% of McCain voters currently plan to vote for McConnell. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of McCain voters say they will split the ticket and vote for Lunsford.
The piece goes on to note, however, that McConnell still commands a net +10% favourability rating and that it “is not unusual for the number of ticket-splitters to decline dramatically as Election Day approaches.”
Meanwhile, McConnell’s campaign released an internal poll today that shows him with a double-digit lead (50-39; MoE +/-4%). It also notes that the campaign’s polls have only 59% of Democrats who supported Lunsford’s primary opponent Greg Fischer voting for their party’s nominee with a quarter saying they’ll be supporting McConnell in November. Obviously, one takes internal polls with a grain of salt — and a good many of these voters will also return to the fold come November. Nevertheless, this jibes well with what my liberal acquaintances are saying: Lunsford is deeply unpopular with many partisan Democrats in Kentucky.
Which brings us to the last point, only obliquely addressed by the sources above. Mitch McConnell is a master campaigner and Lunsford has a great many weaknesses that Fisher was not able to adequately exploit. For instance, Rasmussen has Lunsford leading by 15 points amongst voters who rate the economy as their primary issue. Ads targetting the fact that Vencor, Inc., one of his former companies, went bankrupt, costing a lot of people a lot of money while he came out of it very wealthy, will surely put a dent in that number. As a friend of mine who knows McConnell and his campaign staff well put it when I asked him about the poll this morning, “There’s a lot of ground to plow, and McConnell is a much better farmer than Greg Fischer.”
It goes without saying that the Democrats would dearly love to do a Daschle on Mitch. But, likely as not, McConnell will be fine come November. That said, it’s also likely that this race — coming as it does in a down year for Republicans generally — will be a good deal closer than he’s become accustomed to.