LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- A new poll shows U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell's reelection hopes hinge on which, if any, candidates emerge to challenge him. And, by a 2-1 margin, those firmly opposed to McConnell outnumber those who firmly support him.
Conducted by Survey USA, the Bluegrass Poll in Tuesday's Courier-Journal polled 609 registered Kentucky voters. The poll document does not reveal whether a smaller sample of "likely voters" was identified.
Regardless of his opponent(s), 17 percent of voters back McConnell and 34 percent oppose him. 44 percent of Kentucky voters are keeping their options open.
McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, blasted the poll as "irresponsible" in an interview with the newspaper.
“Anyone with a kindergarten level of education in polling knows that asking voters to support an incumbent ‘no matter who runs against him’ is guaranteed to produce the most skewed number possible,” Benton told the Courier-Journal's Joseph Gerth.
As of yet, no challengers have declared a Senate candidacy despite intense chatter by both Kentucky Democrats and tea party activists.
Among potential Democratic Party candidates, sources tell WHAS11 News that actress Ashley Judd plans exploratory activities in February and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan-Grimes has not ruled out a bid.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party, tells WHAS11 that additional names of potential candidates are surfacing.
"Our goal is to vet each candidate as quickly as possible and emerge with a short list of the best possible candidates," said John Kemper, "while guarding against an establishment Republican wishing to wear a Tea party label, as did Todd Akins and Richard Murdoch in the 2012 election cycle."
McConnell has made inroads with the tea party movement. Since Rand Paul's election to the senate in 2010, McConnell and the tea party favorite have forged a partnership and Paul has vouched for McConnell to tea party supporters.
McConnell has built a $7 million campaign war chest according to the most recent available figures. New fundraising totals are expected this week.
McConnell, the Republican Leader of the U.S. Senate since 2006, is the longest serving U.S. senator in Kentucky history. He is seeking an unprecedented sixth six-year term in the 2014 race.