At the Courier-Journal Editorial Board meeting, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes thrice dogged the question of whether she voted for President Obama in 2008. After spending a good deal of the day speaking to Democratic insiders, PPD’s making a final “Likely Republican” call on the KY Senate race.
Below is a brief commentary recapping the latest development, which is followed by analysis, state data, Kentucky Senate polls and an overview of PPD’s 2014 Senate Map.
[tabs id=”KYSen” title=”Kentucky Senate Race – McConnell Vs. Grimes”] [tab title=”Commentary”]
Grimes attempted to deflect after the second refusal by saying she was a delegate in 2008 for Hillary Clinton, adding that the voters of Kentucky should know she is a Clinton Democrat. However, she failed to also mention that she was a delegate for Obama in 2012, and her detractors immediately pointed to a 2012 interview in which she gleefully espoused her support for President Obama and the Democratic agenda.
“So you’re not gonna answer,” the interviewer pressed in what evolved from an awkward to downright embarrassing, and even shameful moment.
This is far from the first time Grimes has been caught refusing or unable to answer a tough question. In May, Grimes couldn’t or wouldn’t answer whether or not she would’ve voted for ObamaCare — twice. But, at that time, the media darling was still enjoying a free pass from Louisville and national news outlets, which were more apt to cover her endorsements from big name Democrats rather than questionable D.C. fundraisers.
Now, that’s all over.
MSNBC’s Morning Joe fired the first shot, with the entire political team reviewing the footage and concluding it was “cringe-worthy” campaign material.
“And Kentuckians expect her to cast a tough vote on anything,” Chuck Todd said. “Is she ever going to answer a tough question on anything. You want to be a U.S. Senator?”
Todd went on to say he thought she disqualified herself as a candidate making this campaign-ending appearance.
“I really do, I think she disqualified herself.”
The panel offered no objection to Todd’s assessment, with Mika Brzezinski actually ending the video suggesting she was spun from cloth.
“Created by consultants,” Brzezinski said.
Even MSNBC is saying what we at PPD have been saying, all cycle.
Click “Analysis” Above
The Kentucky Senate race has been rated “Likely Republican” by PPD’s 2014 Senate Map Predictions model since the beginning of the cycle.
McConnell’s approval rating is in the high 30s to low 40s and he has hovered below the 50-percent threshold in the majority of polls conducted throughout the cycle.
However, putting aside the speculation and simply observing the data, it is clear that both of these states are fools gold for Democrats and have been this entire cycle. From the beginning of the cycle and consistently, PPD’s 2014 Senate Map Predictions model has been more bullish on McConnell, while other pundits have been prognosticating in fantasy land.
Now, there is no excuse for the media delay in covering the political reality of this race.
Let’s take a look at some of the more important, fundamental factors in the Kentucky Senate race, absent the wishful speculation heard elsewhere. We will begin with polling, then move into demographic data and other nerdy variables.
First, McConnell’s right flank is predictably coming home. Much has been made of McConnell’s low approval ratings and the apparent tightness of the race, according to at least a few polls. Yet, as we’ve previously examined, after McConnell defeated primary challenger Matt Bevin his lead over Grimes widened and has remained consistent. In fact, of all the polls conducted on the Kentucky Senate race since mid-July — which can be viewed in the “Polls” tab — Grimes led in just one, which was a recent survey conducted by none other than the Courier-Journal.
That poll, which is conducted by the questionable pollster SurveyUSA, has consistently shown a 6-point bias toward Grimes and, following the editorial board blunder, will not likely show her such favor again.
In the raw average of aggregate polling, Grimes now sits around 42 percent, which is not much less than where we believe her ceiling of support to be. Let’s take a look at the state’s political environment in more depth to justify that claim.
President Obama’s approval rating in the state is at 29 percent, which believe it or not, is a significant deterioration since Mitt Romney beat him by 23 points in 2012. According to Gallup’s state scorecard, Republicans hold a 6-point edge in party ID (a misleading measurement we will discuss shortly), conservative voters represent 41 percent of the overall electorate and 49 percent are “very religious.”
The only thing “blue” about the Bluegrass State is its nickname. The Partisan Voting Index is now R+14, up from R+10 in 2010 when now-Sen. Rand Paul significantly outperformed expectations in the 5th Congressional District.
And here is the crux of the problem for Alison Lundergan Grimes. Traditional Democratic voters in Kentucky have been steadily trending Republican on the national level.
The 5th Congressional District, a once-competitive region of the state due in large part to the heavily unionized and historically Democratic coal mining constituency, is naturally bailing on the national Democratic Party. In fact, since the era of Obama began in 2008, the 5th District has been bleeding once-loyal Democratic voters. The “War on Coal” may be a sound bite for most media outlets, but it’s real life for Kentucky coal miners.
Worth noting, Grimes isn’t simply underperforming in the region because of the anti-Obama sentiment, she shoulders a good deal of the blame. Regardless, despite what the media have been attempting to portray about this race, it was never truly competitive because conservative voters were always going to come home in the end.
Sure, McConnell isn’t winning any popularity contests anytime soon. However, much of his negative favorability ratings derived from his right flank and, when push comes to shove, a Majority Leader Harry Reid is still far less popular than a Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Kentucky Senate race is rated “Likely Republican” on PPD’s 2014 Senate Map Predictions model, with the minority leader enjoying an 84 percent chance of victory.
Click “Polls” Above
|Poll||Date||Sample||MoE||McConnell (R)||Grimes (D)||Raw Spread||PPD Spread|
|Polling Average||9/8 – 10/7||—||—||45.5||42.5||McConnell +3.0||McConnell +5.2|
|FOX News*||10/4 – 10/7||706 LV||3.5||45||41||McConnell +4|
|Courier-Journal/SurveyUSA*||9/29 – 10/2||632 LV||4.0||44||46||Grimes +2|
|CBS News/NYT/YouGov*||9/20 – 10/1||1689 LV||3.0||47||41||McConnell +6|
|Reuters/Ipsos||9/8 – 9/12||944 LV||3.6||46||42||McConnell +4|
|NBC News/Marist*||9/2 – 9/4||691 LV||3.7||47||39||McConnell +8|
|Rasmussen Reports||9/1 – 9/2||750 LV||4.0||46||41||McConnell +5|
|CNN/Opinion Research||8/28 – 9/1||671 LV||4.0||50||46||McConnell +4|
|CBS News/NYT/YouGov||8/18 – 9/2||2130 LV||3.0||47||42||McConnell +5|
|Courier-Journal/SurveyUSA*||8/25 – 8/27||569 LV||4.2||46||42||McConnell +4|
|PPP (D)||8/7 – 8/10||991 LV||3.1||47||42||McConnell +5|
|Courier-Journal/SurveyUSA||7/18 – 7/23||604 LV||4.1||47||45||McConnell +2|
|CBS News/NYT/YouGov||7/5 – 7/24||LV||4.2||50||46||McConnell +4|
(Please note: Our model uses separately calculated averages from weighting polls based on PPD’s Pollster Scorecard. Above is the raw spread and the weighted PPD average.)
Click “State Data” Above[/tab]
[tab title=”State Data”]
|% Republican/Lean Republican||45||39|
|% Democratic/Lean Democratic||39||43|
Presidential Job Approval
Partisan Voting Index
[/tab] [tab title=”2014 Senate Map”]
LEGEND: SAFE DEM | LIKELY DEM | LEANS DEM | TOSS-UP | LEANS GOP | LIKELY GOP | SAFE GOP