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McConnell holds advantage in poll

By Sam Youngman Lexington Herald-Leader

The re-election campaign of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has gained momentum in the last month, propelled by huge leads over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in western and eastern Kentucky and among men, according to a new Bluegrass Poll.

With less than 10 weeks until Election Day, the poll of 569 likely voters shows McConnell with a 4-point lead over Grimes, up from a 2-point margin a month ago. McConnell now leads Grimes 46 percent to 42 percent, with Libertarian candidate David Patterson at 5 percent.

McConnell's showing is his best to date in the Bluegrass Poll, but the race remains well within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. In addition, 8 percent of respondents remain undecided, and the number of people with a negative view of the senator remains high.

The poll, sponsored by the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV in Lexington and the Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV in Louisville, was conducted by SurveyUSA on landline telephones and cellphones Aug. 25-27.

The survey was conducted before McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, resigned abruptly Friday evening as a growing scandal related to Benton's time as political director for former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign threatened to envelop McConnell. Much of the poll also was conducted before a liberal-leaning publication published a secret recording Tuesday night of McConnell vowing to block votes on raising the minimum wage and other issues as he spoke privately with major Republican donors.

McConnell's popularity remains underwater statewide, with 36 percent of respondents holding a favorable view of him, compared to 46 percent unfavorable.

But his popularity spikes in the western and eastern parts of the state, where he has conducted bus tours in recent weeks to blame President Barack Obama for steep job losses in the coal industry.

In western Kentucky, his favorable rating is 52 percent, compared to 33 percent unfavorable. In Eastern Kentucky, he is viewed favorably by 42 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 39 percent.

As such, McConnell's biggest leads over Grimes come from those regions. McConnell leads 55 percent to 32 percent in the west and 59 percent to 32 percent in the east.

Terrell Skinner, of Russellville, a poll respondent who agreed to a follow-up interview with the Herald-Leader, said he is backing McConnell because of the senator's opposition to President Barack Obama's administration.

"He's the number one thorn in the Democrats' side in Washington, and that's a good thing," Skinner said.

Meanwhile, the percentage of voters who have an opinion about Grimes continues to grow, but their views are split: 38 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable.

Grimes leads 45 percent to 38 percent in the Louisville area, and she holds a 49 percent to 40 percent lead in north-central Kentucky, which includes Lexington.

In the west and east, however, more voters appear to be accepting McConnell's accusations that she will be a rubber stamp for Obama.

In western Kentucky, her favorable rating dips to 32 percent, compared to 40 percent unfavorable. Voters are split evenly at 37 percent in eastern Kentucky.

Despite Grimes' efforts to target female voters, McConnell continues to poll equally well with them - 45 percent chose Grimes, and 44 percent chose McConnell.

Among men, Grimes faces a 10-point deficit: 48 percent to 38 percent.

Taken on the whole, the poll suggests McConnell has successfully capitalized on Kentucky's disdain for Obama, who has a 29 percent favorable and 57 percent unfavorable rating.

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