At this point, if it weren’t for bad luck, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t have any luck at all. Not only is he going to face a Tea Party challenger in next year’s primary, but a new survey released Thursday morning by Public Policy Polling shows him already running a point behind the newly announced Democratic candidate, Alison Lundergan Grimes.
There’s no doubt: Kentucky wants to get rid of McConnell, the least popular senator in the country, and they want it pretty badly. Watching his performance in the Senate, it’s easy to see that his nose-dive in popularity has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with a lack of results.
The new poll was taken a week before Lundergan Grimes officially kicked off her campaign. It asked “if the general election for U.S. Senate were held today,” which of the two would the person vote for? Mitch McConnell got 44% of the votes and Alison Lundergan Grimes got 45%. To further clarify matters, the poll also asked whether respondents “approve or disapprove of the way Republican Mitch McConnell is handling his job as U.S. Senator?” Only 40% approved, a whopping 51% disapproved, and the rest had no opinion.
That’s huge in a state that leans Republican in national elections and which has been represented by McConnell for decades. After all, seniority gives McConnell enormous power–or should. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee calls him the “Guardian of Gridlock, and Lundergan Grimes’ campaign emphasizes his role in obstructing legislation at a time when Kentucky is feeling distressed. She’s carving out a position that’s independent of the White House, but in line with her state’s needs–supporting the coal industry and emphasizing the need for jobs.
McConnell has a lot to worry about. If he survives the primary challenge by Tea Partier Matt Bevins, he’ll go up against a woman who won 60% of Kentucky’s vote when she ran successfully for Secretary of State in 2011. Lundergan Grimes has both personal appeal and grit. To win the election in 2011, she ousted a fellow Democrat from the job. The state-wide and national connections she has from her well-known political parents certainly don’t hurt.
Lundergan Grimes has called out some big guns in support of her campaign, first by airing an absolutely charming ad by her two grannies and then by showing a two minute video endorsement by Bill Clinton –who won Kentucky in both 1992 and 1996–at the campaign kickoff. Plus, on the day of the kickoff, the former Democratic hope for the future, Ashley Judd, tweeted her support. The campaign is heavy on charisma, in stark contrast to McConnell.
Previous polls, taken in April and May–before Lundergan Grimes announced her candidacy–already showed a tight race between she and McConnell. This latest one, taken after an informal announcement, but before the launch of the campaign, is the first to show her in the lead. And there are still 15 months to go before the general election–a very long time for McConnell to complete his slide into oblivion.