The Kentucky Senate race is the fourth article in what will be a succession of expanded analysis released for the PPD 2014 Senate Map. Mitch McConnell is arguably the least popular senator in the United States Senate, and he will have to win the political fight of his life this cycle if he hopes to soon become Senate Majority Leader McConnell.
Independent Democratic groups began launching ads early against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They think he’s vulnerable against the right challenger. Despite opposing the Gang of Eight amnesty bill, and because of his performance on the effort to Defund ObamaCare and last year’s debt ceiling deal, Senate Conservatives Fund will back Matt Bevin, a Louisville business. Bevin has officially filed to run in 2014 against McConnell and to his right.
Recent polling found that Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, whom Democrats had high hopes for, has already lost her early polling lead against the minority leader. Grimes is considered the Democrats’ strongest potential candidate in the state, their “dream candidate.” That is not totally sarcastic, because there was good reason to view Grimes as such.
She impressively won more than 60 percent of the vote in her 2011 statewide win. But she has floundered and shown a tremendous lack of depth during public appearances, prompting the liberal DailyBeast.com to publish a column entitle, “How Not To Beat McConnell.” Democratic groups have constantly tried to push her to the left on issues such as gay marriage and ObamaCare, which are both deeply unpopular in her state. Thus far, Grimes has been unable to show that she is a women of her conviction, repeatedly wavering on public questioning and dodging straightforward answers.
McConnell has amassed a massive war chest for his reelection effort and is a worthy, shrewd campaigner, which has discouraged other possible Democratic candidates, such as ex-state party chair Bill Garmer (D) and former Miss America Heather French Henry (D).
Though Democrats have been able to stay completive at the state level, at the federal level Kentucky has proven to be stridently Republican in recent years, and it was 1 of 8 states where Mitt Romney won at least 60 percent of the vote in 2012. In other words, we’re going to need to see significant changes in this contest before we start considering the Kentucky Senate race truly competitive. Even if Grimes is the sole Democratic candidate, which it appears will be the case, it’s very difficult to imagine McConnell losing in a strongly anti-Obama state amid the ObamaCare disaster.
In polling, Grimes has enjoyed no more than 47 percent of the vote, which I believe is her ceiling in Kentucky. In 2010, when Sen. Rand Paul easily won his Kentucky Senate race riding a wave of Tea Party support, the Cook PVI for Kentucky was R+10. In 2014, the Partisan Voting Index is R+14, far too Republican to consider the 47 percent Grimes once enjoyed anything but her ceiling. Grimes and the Democratic Party would need to run a campaign that is more than a campaign based on an anti-McConnell message, because she will not be the only one offering that message.
From the viewpoint of PPD, Minority Leader McConnell has to worry more about his right flank being assaulted by Matt Bevin and the Senate Conservatives Fund than he does his Alison Lundergan Grimes on his left. McConnell has a bigger challenge in Matt Bevin in the primary, than Grimes in the general.
McConnell led Bevin early in one survey by 52 points, but that lead has evaporated to 25 points. The toppling on the minority leader is still a heavy, but Matt Bevin is closing the gap, to be sure, which is why McConnell has taken him so seriously. His campaign has always acknowledged the opportunity to exploit an antiestablishment fervor in Kentucky.
The conservative FreedomWorks PAC announced their endorsement of Matt Bevin, as well as the Madison Project who not only endorsed but opened 5 offices throughout the state to help get out the vote for Matt Bevin.
Despite what others have predicted, the anti-establishment fervor has caused McConnell to take a page out of the Rand Paul playbook, which includes his nephew. This is a sure sign that he knows he will need Paul’s conservative credentials. Speaking of which, the libertarian-leaning Republican has, in fact, endorsed McConnell in this race.
Either way, despite the hoopla, without real developments in this race, in reality the Kentucky Senate race outside of dreamland, is rated “Likely Republican” on the PPD 2014 Senate Map. McConnell is also slightly favored to win the primary, as of now, but that could change without even showing up on the pollsters’ radar.
View Polling Below Or Return To PPD 2014 Senate Map
|Poll||Date||Sample||Grimes (D)||McConnell (R)||Spread|
|PPD Average||12/12 – 2/3||—||43.3||42.3||Grimes +0.5|
|Courier-Journal/SurveyUSA||1/30 – 2/3||1082 RV||46||42||Grimes +4|
|Rasmussen Reports||1/29 – 1/30||500 LV||42||42||Tie|
|PPP (D)||12/12 – 12/15||1509 RV||42||43||McConnell +1|
|PPP (D)||4/5 – 4/7||1052 RV||41||45||McConnell +4|
|PPP (D)||12/7 – 12/9||1266 RV||40||47||McConnell +7|
|Poll||Date||Sample||Bevin (R)||Grimes (D)||Spread|
|PPD Average||12/12 – 1/30||—||41.7||41.0||Bevin +0.7|
|Courier-Journal/SurveyUSA||1/30 – 2/3||1082 RV||38||43||Grimes +4|
|Rasmussen Reports||1/29 – 1/30||500 LV||48||42||Bevin +6|
|PPP (D)||12/12 – 12/15||1509 RV||39||38||Bevin +1|
|PPD Average||12/12 – 2/3||—||54.0||27.5||McConnell +26.5|
|Courier-Journal/SurveyUSA||1/30 – 2/3||404 RV||55||29||McConnell +26|
|PPP (D)||12/12 – 12/15||540 RV||53||26||McConnell +27|