LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - With two months to go before the November election, a new Bluegrass Poll found Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell strengthening his lead over his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The poll - conducted for WKYT-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS-TV - found the longtime Kentucky senator's re-election bid leading by four percentage points in the race with Grimes and Libertarian David Patterson.
McConnell’s four-point lead in his strongest 2014 Bluegrass Poll to date. In February, Grimes was leading the race by four percentage points.
"Clearly the race remains competitive," said WKYT political editor Bill Bryant. "But these new numbers indicate McConnell has gained some advantage at an important time in the campaign."
McConnell's entire lead comes from men, where he is up by 10 points. The contest is effectively even among women.
“One of Grimes’ primary challenges will be to attract more support from women which has proven elusive in our last two polls,” said Bryant.
The Bluegrass Poll also found McConnell's favorable opinion among those polled up as well to 36 percent. It was only 29 percent in May.
McConnell's challenge remains his 46-percent unfavorable rating.
“McConnell has been working to soften his image and appear more connected to Kentuckians,” said Bryant. “His challenge is to sell his experience in Washington as an asset to the state rather than a drawback.”
Grimes scored 38 percent in favorability. At 37 percent, her unfavorable score was nine percentage points lower than McConnell's.
Voters by 2:1 trust McConnell to protect Kentucky's coal interests. Voters by 3:2 trust McConnell on foreign policy and by 4:3 trust him on immigration over his rivals. However, the Bluegrass Poll found Kentuckians split on whether McConnell or Grimes is stronger on the economy. By a 5:3 margin, Grimes leads as most trusted to improve the lives of women.
The Bluegrass Poll found McConnell’s biggest geographical strength was in western and eastern Kentucky where he had significant advantage over Grimes. While Grimes edged out McConnell in Louisville, Lexington, and the areas defined as central and northern Kentucky, her leads were not as great as McConnell’s in western and eastern Kentucky.
In similar results to the McConnell-Grimes race, 47 percent of those polled said Republicans would do a better job running the Senate while 43 percent said Democrats. In both cases, Republicans are ahead by four percentage points.
McConnell's 1984 election to the U.S. Senate marked the first time a Republican won a statewide office in Kentucky since 1968. In 2006, Republicans elected him to be the their leader in the Senate.
In 2011, Grimes made her first step into politics by entering the race to replace former Secretary of State Trey Grayson. She went on to beat Gov. Steve Beshear's appointee to finish Grayson's term in the Democratic primary and then soundly beat the Republican businessman Bill Johnson in the general election that focused highly on requiring photo IDs in order to vote.
Before politics, Grimes was a Lexington attorney.
For the Bluegrass Poll, SurveyUSA interviewed 700 state of Kentucky adults between August 25 and 27. Of the adults, 647 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 569 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote in the November 4 general election. This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone (72 percent of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device.