According to a new Public Policy Polling poll released Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will face a very difficult re-election battle in 2014.
The poll finds that McConnell and Kentucky’s Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes, would be tied at 45 percent in a hypothetical 2014 Senate race. Grimes has not yet said whether or not she plans to enter the race.
The PPP poll, which was conducted on behalf of Senate Majority PAC, suggests that McConnell’s greatest opponent may be himself. Kentucky’s senior senator holds a mere 44 percent approval rating in his home state, with 47 percent disapproval. While Grimes’ favorability is just 34 percent, 42 percent of Kentuckians are still unsure of their opinion of her.
McConnell’s standing has been deteriorating over time; two previous PPP polls had McConnell leading Grimes by margins of 7 points in December and 4 points in April.
McConnell supporters immediately lashed out against the survey. National Republican Senatorial Committee strategist Brad Dayspring, for example, argued via Twitter that questions such as “Mitch McConnell has voted to cut taxes for millionaires like himself, while supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare for hard-working Kentucky seniors. Does this make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference?” are indicative of a push poll. Notably, PPP does have an extremely accurate record.
McConnell’s campaign has long prepared itself to run against Grimes. In April, a secretly recorded tape obtained by Mother Jones exposed McConnell and his aides discussing ways to discredit Grimes, along with actress and activist Ashley Judd, who was considered a likely challenger at the time. On the tape, Team McConnell considered hitting Grimes for “blatantly endorsing the 2008 Democratic national platform” and suggesting that she “definitely has a very sort of self-centered, sort of egotistical aspect,” due to her tendency to refer to herself in the third person.
The SuperPAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership has also attacked Grimes, in a series of online ads. The ads equate her to Democratic leaders such as President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saying “When Grimes promises ‘new leadership,’ it means she doesn’t agree that Kentuckians like McConnell should stand strong against: Obamacare, Higher Taxes, Wasteful Stimulus, Cap and Trade, EPA’s War on Coal, and Gun Control.”
Even if Republicans like Dayspring dismiss the poll’s results, all signs point to a difficult fight for McConnell in the coming election year. The combination of McConnell’s deadlock with Grimes — despite her low name recognition — and his even lower approval rating make it clear that Democrats will have a strong opportunity to take down their number-one political target in 2014.