Kentucky Democrats see recruiting tool in Public Policy Polling's findings on McConnell

12/11/2012 03:53 PM

UPDATED: Still without a challenger to Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014, Kentucky Democrats say their recruiting efforts may have received a shot of momentum with a new Public Policy Polling survey that shows McConnell with a 37 percent job approval rating.

“I think this is going to help,” said Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon said in an interview with Pure Politics.

Logsdon said Democrats would need a candidate to emerge by “the third quarter of next year — at the absolute latest” in order to be competitive.

McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, already has raised more than $10 million and is bracing for another bruising re-election fight.

The survey from Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm that conducts public polls but many internal surveys for Democrats, said McConnell’s numbers showed him to be “the most unpopular senator in the country.” It went on to say:

Only 37% of Kentucky voters approve of him to 55% disapprove. Both in terms of raw disapproval (55%) and net approval (-18) McConnell has the worst numbers of any of his peers, taking that mantle from Nebraska’s Ben Nelson.

Jesse Benton, McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign manager, said in response to the numbers that the polling firm has “an agenda.” He said internal polls and public polls — such as the Courier-Journal’s most recent survey results from October — show much higher approval ratings.

“It speaks volumes that even a liberal Democrat pollster with an agenda to make Mitch McConnell look bad still can’t find an opponent who can lead him in Kentucky. This Democrat poll has a long-held reputation for skewed approval numbers and that’s obviously the case here since there is no poll, public or private, that has shown Senator McConnell’s approval ratings anywhere near where PPP suggests.”

Logsdon said the Kentucky Democratic Party hasn’t done it’s own polling on McConnell yet but that he believes the PPP numbers.

“I think what’s driving the numbers is that people are tired of gridlock in Washington … And Sen. McConnell is the poster boy for gridlock,” Logsdon said.

And in Kentucky, Logsdon said he believes McConnell is more vulnerable now because he can’t run squarely on projects and funding he’s directed to Kentucky like he has in past re-election campaigns because earmarks and federal spending have become unpopular.

Plus, Logsdon pointed to the emergence of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who famously won the 2010 Republican primary in spite of McConnell’s endorsement of Paul’s rival, Trey Grayson.

“There’s been a role reversal now. Now (McConnell) kowtows to Rand Paul. I don’t think that’s too strong a word,” Logsdon said — citing, for instance, McConnell’s hire of Jesse Benton — who married into the Paul family.

So far, no Democrats have announced an intent to challenge McConnell. Actress Ashley Judd and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes have gotten the most early buzz as both of them have confirmed they’ve been approached about making the run.

Logsdon said he hasn’t spoken to either of them about the race.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or ryan.alessi@twcnews.com.

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