Comer leads in RunSwitch poll; GOP leads generic general election 10 months out

02/02/2015 09:58 PM

There are still four months before the gubernatorial primary election, but registered voters are already getting an earful from pollsters.

The latest survey, released Monday by RunSwitch PR , and conducted by Harper Polling, shows a competitive GOP primary election mounting as the candidates keep within striking distance.

The poll, which was conducted Wednesday through Saturday, shows state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer leading the Republican candidates with 25 percent support among 261 likely primary voters.

Former Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner came in second at 19 percent; Matt Bevin, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in last year’s GOP primary, had 18 percent support; and 9 percent backed former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott.

But the survey, which has a 6.07 percent margin of error, showed a large number of likely Republican voters remain uncommitted months from the primary, Brock McCleary, president of Harper Polling, said in a news release.

“We find James Comer with a small advantage to start, but with Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin right there behind him. Will Scott is the furthest back. Obviously, GOP voters are still making up their minds about these candidates, as 30% of our sample wasn’t sure who they would back,” he said.

The polling will move once candidates start making appearances in front of voters, said RunSwitch Partner Scott Jennings, a former McConnell campaign staffer. Neither the firm nor Jennings is affiliated with any campaign in the gubernatorial election.

“We are likely to see significant movement in the GOP primary numbers as the Lincoln Day season is just beginning, and all of these candidates will be appearing alongside one another numerous times in front of good crowds and reporters all over the state,” Jennings said. “And, outside of a small amount from Heiner, we haven’t seen any paid advertising begin to affect this race just yet. I am sure that will change soon.”

The group also polled 255 likely Democratic voters and, unsurprisingly, Attorney General Jack Conway leads little-known perennial candidate Geoff Young by 46 points with 28 percent undecided. The survey had a 6.14 percent margin of error.

Run Switch looked at hypothetical head-to-head matchups between Conway and the Republican field in general election scenarios 10 months out.

Here is a snippet from the group’s memo detailing the head-to-head contests by media market. Harper Polling contacted 640 likely voters for the survey, which had a 3.87 margin of error.

The GOP held a 48 percent to 43 percent lead on a generic ballot, and Comer and Heiner lead Conway by 4 and 2 points, respectively. Conway topped Bevin and Scott by 4 percent each.

With the head-to-head results near the poll’s margin of error, this year’s gubernatorial contest remains up for grabs nearly a year from Election Day, McCleary said.

“Kentucky is in for a real barn burner of a governor’s race,” he said. “Generically, Republicans have a slight advantage in the race in November. Two of the four GOP candidates had small leads on likely Democratic nominee Jack Conway, and Conway had small leads on the other two.”

Harper Polling polled voters on the favorability of two candidates for attorney general — Democrat Andy Beshear and Republican state Sen. Whitney Westerfield — and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who’s seeking a second term. Many of the respondents had fairly solid opinions of Grimes, with only 7 percent undecided. She led the field in the head-to-head poll at the two extremes: Twenty-seven percent of respondents viewed her very favorably while 29 percent saw her very unfavorably.

The pollster also surveyed how well respondents graded President Barack Obama and Gov. Steve Beshear on job performance. Beshear lead Obama in the general election poll with 50 percent of respondents supporting his administration versus 32 percent who backed the president.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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