The campaign to elect Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants donors and supporters to know she still has a shot at beating Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell this fall.
That’s what one can gather from an internal poll and subsequent messages Grimes’ team sent out Wednesday showing Grimes with a 1-point lead.
Grimes’ campaign memo highlights the advantages she carries into the last two months of the race, such as being better liked by voters who know each candidates.
Among those likely voters, for example, the internal polling said Grimes leads by nine points.
“Bottom line, this is an exceedingly close race,” Grimes pollster Mark Mellman said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “It’s a race that will certainly go down to the wire and it is a race where Alison’s strength is a real image advantage over McConnell, who is given extraordinarily negative assessments for his performance.”
The timing of the release, however, comes at a critical moment for Grimes as a candidate after a series of polls show this seat is slipping away from the Democrat’s grasp.
In fact, the last nine polls have McConnell either slightly increasing or greatly expanding his lead. The latest survey was a GOP-leaning Magellan Strategies Poll showed the senator up by a strong 8-point margin.
After releasing their own numbers, Grimes’ team soon hit up supporters for some cash in a fundraising e-mail.
The campaign boasted “Alison’s ahead!” while failing to mention it was an internal poll. Grimes is visiting Washington, D.C., this week for a pair of fundraisers with national Democrats.
Reporters peppered Mellman with questions about his methodology and how their numbers could differ with other polls showing what appears to be a trend favoring McConnell.
It was just two years ago when Republicans believed their own numbers over independent polls, spelling a doomsday election outcome.
Even with the latest round of polls going in the wrong direction, the public faces of Grimes campaign aides remain confident. They point out Mellman’s group is ranked as one of the more accurate pollsters in the country.
“The bottom line is we’ve been right when these public polls have been wrong,” said Mellman.
The Mellman Group polled for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid during his 2010 re-election battle, and called the race correctly while most public polling had Reid losing to his GOP opponent. The Grimes poll does not include Libertarian candidate David Patterson, whose entry has shown to impact Grimes and McConnell margins equally in other polling.
And Republican critics were quick to chime in on the internal numbers.
GOP strategist Scott Jennings, for instance, pointed out the Mellman Group had former Democratic Congressman Ben Chandler up by 14 points over then Republican challenger Andy Barr going into the election two years ago.
Barr ended up defeating Chandler by a 4-point margin.
Mellman said much of Grimes’ polling is based on what he called the “likely electorate” in Kentucky’s election cycle. That includes an analysis of particular voters’ histories and probable decisions this fall, but he would not release details on how they’re modeling those demographics.
“I feel very, very confident in our methods and I frankly feel more confident in our methods than the public polls that are being done,” said Mellman.
The Grimes internal poll was conducted Sept. 4-7 of 800 likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.