Democratic pollster: Grimes 45, McConnell 44

Democratic pollster: Grimes 45, McConnell 44

Democratic pollster: Grimes 45, McConnell 44


by Joe Arnold

Posted on August 1, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 1 at 6:23 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes leads five-term Republican incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell by one percentage point in a poll released Thursday morning to WHAS11 by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP).

The narrow margin is within the poll's 2.8 percent margin of error, making a McConnell-Grimes contest a statistical dead heat in the survey.

If the general election for U.S. Senate were held today, and the choices were Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, for whom would you vote?

Mitch McConnell                    44%
Alison Lundergan Grimes   45%
Undecided                              11%
(Asked of 1,210 Kentucky voters MOE 2.8%)

The poll was conducted July 19-21, prior to the July 24 entry of Republican Matt Bevin into the race and prior to Grimes' official announcement in Lexington on July 30.  Grimes announced her intention to enter the race on July 1.  The survey does not include any of the other three Democratic candidates, Owensboro contractor Ed Marksberry, Louisville music promoter Bennie J. Smith and U of L professor Greg Leitchy.

The PPP poll was commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy For America (DFA).

A survey by Wenzel Strategies, a Republican pollster, last week showed McConnell leading Grimes by 8 points, 48 percent to 40 percent, with 12 percent undecided.  The same poll showed McConnell leading Bevin 59 percent to 20 percent among Republican primary voters.

While McConnell enjoyed a 53 percent favorability rating in the Wenzel poll, only 40 percent of PPP poll respondents approve of his job performance.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Republican Mitch McConnell is handling his job as U.S. Senator?

Approve           40%
Disapprove     51%
No opinion        9%
(Asked of 1,210 Kentucky voters MOE 2.8%)

McConnell has been the focus of a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee campaign labeling him the "Guardian of Gridlock," and attack ads from the Senate Majority PAC and Patriot Majority USA.

The poll highlights released to WHAS11 do not include Grimes' favorability rating.  The Wenzel poll had shown 35 percent of voters viewing her positively.  Her unfavorability rating had risen from 25 percent one month ago to 41 percent today.  Grimes has been the focus of attack ads from the Kentuckians for Strong Leadership Super PAC linking her to the national Democratic Party platform and President Barack Obama.

McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader since 2007, has long predicted that his 2014 re-election bid would be the most significant election in the country and that he would be the Democratic Party's top target in the cycle.  McConnell hired former Ron Paul presidential campaign manager Jesse Benton to run a presidential-level campaign and opened his "Team Mitch" headquarters in February, earlier than any of his prior Senate elections. 

McConnell is considered a master political strategist and campaigner.  He has about $15 million in his re-election war chest and has garnered key endorsements, including from fellow Kentucky Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

By a 54-38 margin, a smaller sample of Kentucky voters surveyed by PPP believe McConnell does not deserve re-election.

After 30 years in the U.S. Senate, do you believe Republican Mitch McConnell deserves re-election, or not?

Believe he does                          38%
Believe he does not                   54%
Not sure                                         8%
(Asked of 625 Kentucky voters MOE 3.9%)

In the July 23-24 Wenzel poll, 40 percent of respondents said they would "definitely" vote for McConnell's re-election.  39 percent replied they "definitely" would vote for someone else.

A news conference to publicly release both the poll results and a new ad campaign is planned for noon, Thursday outside the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse in Louisville, where McConnell has an office.

The PCCC will be joined by Democracy For America (DFA),, Social Security Works, and Credo Action at the event which will stress other results in the PPP poll concerning Social Security and Medicare. 

McConnell has said that the only way to deal with the national debt and save Social Security and Medicare for future generations is through entitlement reform, including raising eligibility ages over time.

If Republican Mitch McConnell supported any cuts to Social Security or Medicare benefits, including raising the retirement age or reducing cost-of-living adjustments, would you be more or less likely to support his candidacy for U.S. Senate, or would it not make a difference?

More likely                                        15%
Less likely                                        52%
Wouldn't make a difference          33%
(Asked of 585 likely general election voters - MOE 4.1%)

A proposal in Congress would increase Social Security benefits, resulting in a worker at age 75 receiving $452 more in benefits per year and a worker at age 85 receiving $807 more per year. Do you support or oppose this proposal?

Support                                             51%
Oppose                                             24%
Not sure                                            24%
(Asked of 585 likely general election voters - MOE 4.1%)

Right now, wealthy Americans only pay Social Security taxes on the first $113,000 of their income. In order to strengthen Social Security, do you support or oppose scrapping this cap so that wealthy Americans pay the same rate on their income as ordinary Americans?

Support                                             62%
Oppose                                            20%
Not Sure                                           18%
(Asked of 625 likely general election voters - MOE 3.9%)

The PCCC news conference in Louisville is in coordination with similar events in other states, part of a new campaign to rally support for a proposal by Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) to expand Social Security benefits.

In a news release, the PCCC said more than 300,000 people have signed on to the coalition's petitions calling on Congress to expand Social Security benefits, including over 2,000 Kentucky voters.