Poll: Paul leads Conway in showdown for Senate seat

With less than two weeks to go, Republican Rand Paul leads the race to replace Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning. An exclusive Kentucky Poll finds 48 percent of likely voters plan to vote for Paul, 43 percent for Democrat Jack Conway, and nine percent remain undecided.

Commissioned by WKYT, WYMT, The Lexington Herald-Leader, and WAVE in Louisville, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., interviewed 625 registered Kentucky voters on Monday and Tuesday.

In the battle to represent Kentucky in the U.S. Senate, Bowling Green ophthalmologist Rand Paul has become a tea party darling. Even though he's never held political office, Paul has become one of the most talked about faces of the tea party, the conservative splinter of the GOP that favors smaller government, less taxes.

“Looking at these numbers, his anti-Washington tough talk seems to be resonating with Kentuckians as the race with Attorney General Jack Conway boils over,” says WKYT political editor Bill Bryant.

As the race turns ugly, it's not just Kentucky that's following the battle between Paul and Conway. The national spotlight has shown on a Conway ad questions Paul's involvement in a college group that mocked Christianity and Paul’s refusal to shake his opponent's hand after a debate.

On Wednesday, Paul’s wife told reporters she was shocked by the TV ad questioning her husband's religious beliefs. Kelley Paul called it "a desperate, shameful attack on our family."

“Kentucky is being very closed watched right now around the country and could give the tea party movement one of its biggest election night victories,” said WKYT’s Bryant.

While Paul leads by five percentage points, factoring in those who remain undecided and a four-percent margin of error could swing either way.

Paul's biggest support is among men, Republicans and independents while women and Democrats are Conway's strength.

Paul seems to have stronger grip on his own party with 81 percent of Republicans say they'll vote for him. Thirteen percent of Republicans say they'll cross party lines and vote for Conway.
Conway’s influence within his own party isn’t as commanding. The poll found 65 percent of Democrats say they'll vote for their own party's nominee and 24 percent will cross over to Paul.

The poll also found with Paul with strong leads in four of Kentucky’s six Congressional districts. Conway is ahead only in the sixth district, which includes Lexington and most of central Kentucky, and the third district of Louisville.

"I think this election is really about the President's agenda; do you support the President's agenda or do you not support it?" Paul told Fox News moderator Chris Wallace during one of the race’s debates. "I think his agenda is wrong for America."

"I am a proud Democrat. I'm certainly not going to be on the left of Barack Obama," Conway said during the debate. While he endorses parts of Obama’s efforts, he does disagree with Obama on issues such as supporting an extension of President Bush's income tax cuts for all income brackets and opposing the system of greenhouse gas reduction know as "cap and trade."

Poll Methodology

The Kentucky Poll was conducted on behalf of WKYT, WYMT, The Lexington Herald-Leader, and WAVE-TV by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C. from October 18-19. A total of 625 registered Kentucky voters were interviewed statewide by telephone. All said they were likely to vote in the November general election. Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers. A cross-section of exchanges was utilized in order to ensure an accurate reflection of the state. Quotas were assigned to reflect voter turn-out by county.

The margin for error, according to standards customarily used by statisticians, is no more than plus or minus 4 percentage points. This means that there is a 95 percent probability that the "true" figure would fall within that range if the entire population were sampled. The margin for error is higher for any subgroup, such as a gender or regional grouping.

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