Mitch McConnell May Still Have a 2014 Fight on His Hands

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 28 2013 12:47 PM

Mitch McConnell May Still Have a 2014 Fight on His Hands

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks after a weekly Senate Republican caucus meeting on May 21, 2013

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Things were supposed to get easier for Mitch McConnell after Ashley Judd announced earlier this year that she wouldn't challenge him for his seat in 2014. While some GOP insiders had expressed optimism that they would have been able to turn Judd into "the liberal Democrat version of Todd Akin," Karl Rove and co.'s preemptive strikes against the actress-turned-activist made it clear that they viewed her as a formidable challenger, no doubt in large part due to her perceived ability to garner national media attention and to bring in large amounts of cash from outside of the state.

Judd's March announcement that she'd remain on the sidelines was seen as a substantial victory for McConnell's re-election chances. While that may be true, a new poll out today suggests the sitting senator may still have a fight on his hands come 2014. Here's Public Policy Polling with the details from the survey they conducted on behalf of a Democratic super PAC:

A new Public Policy Polling survey of Kentucky finds Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes tied in a hypothetical match up at 45%. McConnell’s early positive advertising has done nothing to improve his prospects for reelection and in fact this is the actually the weakest position PPP has found him in yet. In April we found him leading Grimes by 4 points and in December he had a 7 point advantage over her. ...
McConnell continues to be unpopular with 44% of voters approving of him to 47% who disapprove. His numbers are even worse with independents, only 41% of whom think he’s doing a good job while 53% give him poor marks. Grimes, on the other hand, has a positive 34/24 favorability rating.
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Grimes, currently Kentucky's secretary of state, doesn't have the national profile that Judd does, but she has already proved successful at the state level, beating an incumbent Democrat in a 2011 primary on her way to a general election victory that November. She is also the daughter of Jerry Lundergan, the former state party chairman, which was likely one reason Democratic officials were in no hurry to simply hand the Senate nomination over to Judd earlier this year. As you probably noticed, however, PPP includes a "hypothetical" disclaimer. That's because Grimes hasn't actually jumped in the race yet. If and when she does, she'll feel the full force of a GOP establishment that will be eager to protect McConnell's seat in a state that President Obama lost by more than 20 points last year.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.