Republican Rand Paul is maintaining a slim majority of support in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race versus Democrat Jack Conway, according to a new WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll.
Among likely voters, Paul leads Conway 51 percent to 43 percent. 5 percent of voters are undecided. The poll is virtually unchanged from two months ago, when Paul led Conway 51 percent to 45 percent.
Conducted by Survey USA, the poll surveyed 568 likely voters among 900 adults interviewed July 27 through July 29. The survey has a 4.2% margin of error.
Note to outside media and bloggers: WHAS11 is pleased to provide this poll on WHAS11.com. We appreciate your cooperation in referring to the poll as the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll. While Survey USA is the pollster, the poll is commissioned by WHAS11 and The Louisville Courier-Journal.
Compared with the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll from May 31, Paul has gained support among men, leading Conway 57 percent to 38 percent. But Paul has lost some support among women, where Conway has a three point lead, 49 percent to 46 percent.
An analysis of the numbers by the pollster suggests that "Conway may have made up some ground in Western Kentucky, but lost some ground in Eastern Kentucky."
Paul claims a narrow lead, 50 percent to 45 percent in Conway's home region, in and surrounding Louisville. The only region Conway leads is in Eastern Kentucky, where the race is a virtual dead heat with Conway at 48 percent and Paul at 47 percent.
Louisville Region voters:
For Paul, it means both embracing the Republican establishment that he challenged in the primary, and backing off what might be considered some extreme positions, particularly the existence of a number of federal agencies and programs. In rural Kentucky, Paul's criticism of Agriculture Department subsidies is considered a political liability. What remains to be seen is if voters perceive Paul as ideologically rigid or appreciate his consistency on positions that are politically dangerous.
Republicans are solidly behind their candidate, with Paul leading Conway 85 percent to 11 percent among GOP voters.
But 25 percent of Democrats are crossing party lines to support Paul. 69 percent of Democrats back the Democratic candidate, Conway.
Independents are trending toward Paul's fiscally conservative message, 54 percent to 36 percent for Conway.
Conway confidantes stress that Paul came into the general election contest riding a 20 point advantage in name identification and instant access to national media. Despite those factors, Conway is still neck and neck with Paul. The hope of Conway backers is that the more voters hear about Paul, the less they support him.
The release of the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll is one week prior to the Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County, Kentucky, the traditional start of the campaign season. While the candidates were very active in the media and public eye during the Senate primaries, both Conway and Paul have been focusing more on fund raising and building their organizations, since the primary.
Conway has also had to deal with the question of whether primary rival, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo will endorse him in the general election. While Paul's GOP foe, Trey Grayson, immediately endorsed Paul, Mongiardo and Conway have been embroiled in a controversy over whether a Conway campaign official promised to help retire Mongiardo's campaign debt. While sources say the money does not represent a "quid pro quo" for Mongiardo's endorsement, they say Mongiardo believes it is a matter of trust that must be resolved before he could consider backing Conway.
Paul, meanwhile, has curtailed the all access pass the media enjoyed during the primary. A series of controversial comments, regarding the Civil Rights Act and the Gulf oil spill, among others and the resulting criticism and scrutiny has prompted Paul to be more cautious in who he grants interviews and in a softening of his libertarian-esque message.