Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has added slightly to his lead over Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, according to the latest Bluegrass Poll released Saturday evening.
The survey of 569 likely Kentucky voters puts McConnell ahead of Grimes by four points in the tightly contested U.S. Senate race, a lead that is still within the margin of error with less than 10-weeks until Election Day.
An earlier version of the poll, conducted just one month ago, had McConnell up by two points, and the GOP leader is gaining momentum in keys areas compared to previous polls as Grimes’ favorable ratings plummet.
My Old Kentucky Home: In terms of the state’s regions, McConnell is hammering Grimes by enormous margins in rural areas.
In the western half of Kentucky, he holds a 23-point lead. That support balloons in the eastern coalfields to a 27-point margin.
Despite Grimes’ efforts to appeal to coal miners and their concerns—including joint appearances with former President Bill Clinton—McConnell is more trusted to defend the industry.
The Bluegrass Poll finds 44 percent of registered voters reported that McConnell is a better fighter for Kentucky’s coal interests. That’s compared to just 22 percent who said the same about Grimes.
“It’s becoming more clear the closer we get to the election that voters want a proven leader like Senator McConnell who delivers for Kentucky rather than an inexperienced liberal who is just another vote for the Obama agenda,” McConnell campaign manager Allison Moore said in a released statement.
Grimes holds clear advantages in Democratic-leaning areas. She’s ahead in Louisville by 7 points and the northern-central area by 9 points, according to the survey.
Kentucky Women Split: This is the third consecutive poll showing McConnell and Grimes in a statistical tie among female voters.
Democrats have put a heavy emphasis on women’s issues in this campaign, targeting the GOP leader as anti-woman for voting against proposals such as the Violence Against Women Act and equal pay measures.
In fact, the latest poll finds Grimes has a 21-point lead when voters are asked who will improve the lives of women. But that isn’t translating into overall support.
Among women, Grimes leads by just one-percentage point while trailing McConnell among men by a 48-38 margin.
Popularity Contest: McConnell’s personal likeability is still deeply negative, but it is trending in a positive direction.
The new Bluegrass Poll, for instance, puts the senator’s net favorable rating at negative 10 points. That’s far better than the negative 20-point rating he had last year.
As many observers predicted, the McConnell strategy was to bring Grimes’ popularity down. She has been bombarded by negative attacks over the summer by McConnell’s campaign and super PACs.
Those ads have taken a toll and dipped her favorability by about seven points since May, according to the Bluegrass Poll.
The Grimes campaign is confident, however, telling WFPL they “remain strongly positioned to win” this fall. They point out the poll was conducted before two troubling events for McConnell this past week.
The first was reports of a secret recording of McConnell vowing to oppose the minimum wage and other populist measures in a speech to billionaires.
Among poorer and middle-class voters, Grimes holds healthy double-digit margins.
The poll finds those making less than $40,000 annually, support Grimes over McConnell by 17 points. She maintains a 10-point lead among voters earning around $45,000 per year, while McConnell leads among voters making over $80,000 by 12 points.
“After facing a barrage of more than $30 million in spending from Mitch McConnell and his allies, our campaign remains well within the margin of error against the 30-year Washington incumbent,” Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said in a released statement.
The poll was also conducted before McConnell’s team was rocked by the sudden departure of campaign manager Jesse Benton, who is being linked to a bribery scandal in Iowa.
“Today’s poll reflects how close we are to winning the race, however it does not reflect the tornado of bad news that has upended Senator McConnell’s campaign this week, including a secret tape and a bribery scandal that resulted in the resignation of his campaign manager,” said Hurst.
Grimes campaign officials also point out that independent polls throughout have shown the race against McConnell is a statistical tie.