McConnell Pulling Ahead in Race to Keep His Job

WASHINGTON – Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has bolted to a late lead in his quest for a sixth term representing Kentucky, as reluctant members of the state’s GOP faithful are coming home to roost.

The Bluegrass Poll, conducted by Survey USA and commissioned by five media outfits, including the Courier-Journal of Louisville and the Lexington Herald Leader, reported Thursday that McConnell has expanded his edge over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the secretary of state, to five points with only five days left until the election.

According to the survey, McConnell carries the support of 48 percent of those questioned while Grimes clocks in with 43 percent. David Patterson, a Libertarian, gets 3 percent.

That contrasts with the previous Bluegrass Poll, released Oct. 20, which showed the race in a virtual dead heat. McConnell at that juncture held a 44-43 lead with Patterson attracting 5 percent.

The difference, according to internal numbers, is the number of Republicans who have decided to back McConnell. The veteran lawmaker was unable to attract more than 80 percent of the Republican vote in all previous Bluegrass Polls. This go-round he cracked 86 percent. Meanwhile, Patterson, who stood to take some supporters who might otherwise back McConnell, lost ground.

McConnell has consistently experienced problems bringing Republican voters into the fold. Despite his position atop the Republican hierarchy in the Senate, he has attracted catcalls from the party’s right wing and has run afoul of the Tea Party movement, which carries significant influence within the GOP.

He faced a primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who has ties to the Tea Party, prevailing 61-35. Bevin has declined to endorse his one-time foe but he indicated in a presentation during a rally attended by McConnell in Louisville on Wednesday that he likely will vote for the Republican.

“I have always voted for him,” Bevin said.

Regardless, McConnell’s newfound support has a grudging feel. The same poll shows that only 37 percent of those questioned have a favorable view of him while 44 percent register an unfavorable opinion.