In Surprise, Poll Shows Grimes With Edge Over McConnell

Is it a race after all?

After trailing by as many as seven points in every major poll since June, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes now holds a slim lead over Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, according to a Bluegrass Poll survey released last week.

Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, leads the five-term incumbent 46 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, according to the poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for Louisville’s Courier-Journal and three other state media outlets. Libertarian candidate David Patterson had 3 percent support in the poll, while 7 percent said they were undecided.

The poll follows an internal survey conducted a week earlier that also showed Grimes with a 2-point edge over the six-term incumbent, according to campaign sources.

‘Outlier’?

McConnell’s campaign, though, wasn’t impressed.

“After fourteen straight public polls all showing Sen. McConnell with a clear lead, this Bluegrass Poll is obviously an outlier,” McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. “We're very comfortable with where this race stands and are confident Sen. McConnell will be re-elected in November.”

Of course, one would expect such a response from the Republican’s camp.

But Geoffrey Skelley, an independent political analyst with the University of Virginia, agrees that the poll doesn’t necessarily represent a meaningful shift in the dynamics of the race.

“It seems likely this is an outlier,” he said. “As always, one poll means little. This one will need confirmation from other surveys before we consider altering out outlook on the race.”

Grassroots Strategy Paying Off?

For now, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the U.Va. forecast model for which Skelley serves as associate editor, has McConnell winning the race by a small but definitive margin.

But Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said in a statement that the poll “reflects the overwhelming grassroots enthusiasm Alison and our campaign see every day across the commonwealth.”

Democrats also point to the poll’s finding that 58 percent of registered voters believe McConnell should be replaced, a figure consistent with what other surveys have found recently.

Even more alarming for McConnell is the percentage of Republicans and conservatives who believe he’s been in Washington too long — 27 and 33 percent, respectively.

‘Grain Of Salt’

Still, University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss said the poll’s results — and especially its 6-point swing from a month ago, when it had McConnell up by four points — won’t likely have Republicans changing their game plan anytime soon.

“I would take these results with a grain of salt, given that they deviate from everything we’ve seen recently,” Voss told the Courier-Journal.

Indeed, a poll released on Wednesday showed McConnell back on top by 4 points, a result more in line with polls of the last several months.

The McConnell campaign’s strategy has focused on tying Grimes to an unpopular President Obama, suggesting she would be little more than a rubber stamp for the president and his policies.