McConnell gets better reviews than Bunning or Obama, cn|2 Poll shows

07/22/2010 09:54 PM

A majority of likely Kentucky voters approve of the job being done by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, but aren’t as pleased with the state’s junior senator, Jim Bunning, or President Barack Obama, the cn|2 Poll shows.

McConnell fared best with an approval rating of 53.1% compared to Bunning’s 43.7%. As for Obama, a higher percentage said they strongly disapproved of his performance (42.2%) than the total of those who said they somewhat or strongly approved (40.9%).

Those numbers were part of the results of the first cn|2 Poll, a survey taken of 803 likely voters between July 19 and July 22. Braun Research — a Princeton, New Jersey-based firm – conducted the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.46 percentage points. Click here to see the crosstabs and detailed results.

McConnell’s spokesman Robert Steurer declined to comment on the poll.

The results  showed that McConnell fared best in far western and southern Kentucky where he had a 64% approval rating in the 1st congressional district. McConnell’s approval rating dropped under 50 percent in just one area – the 6th congressional district that covers central Kentucky, according to the poll. (Those congressional district breakdowns have a margin of error of 8.34 percentage points).

McConnell’s job approval:

  • 20.4% strongly approve
  • 32.7% somewhat approve
  • 12.8% somewhat disapprove
  • 29.2% strongly disapprove
  • 4.5% don’t know
  • 0.5% refused to answer

Dan Logsdon, the Kentucky Democratic Party chairman, said McConnell’s relative popularity could be explained by his track record of bringing back to Kentucky projects and helping pass key pieces of legislation because of his clout as Republican Senate leader.

He quickly added that such an approach directly counters that of current Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul, who has established a reputation as a free radical.

“When I look at Sen. McConnell’s approval rating, I think a good deal of that is linked to the fact that he’s a powerful figure in Washington who can get things done for the people of his state, and Kentuckians are accustomed to that,” he said, mentioning the names of former Democratic congressman Carl Perkins and Bill Natcher as well as former Sen. Wendell Ford as examples. “Kentucky voters are savvy and they know we don’t need a bomb-thrower in the United States Senate.”

McConnell declined to back Paul in the Republican primary and instead endorsed his opponent, Trey Grayson. Despite coming together with McConnell since the May 18 primary, Paul has been somewhat unclear about whether McConnell would be his top choice for Senate Republican leader.

Steve Robertson, the Republican Party of Kentucky chairman, said McConnell’s record of directing tax dollars to Kentucky doesn’t contradict Paul’s overall message of slashing government spending.

“The fact remains that tax dollars are collected and they have to be used for something,” Robertson said. “Anyone who represents the state would like to see the investment taxpayers are making in government help at home.”

When asked for examples, Robertson cited funding for destruction of chemical weapons stored at Blue Grass Station, which McConnell has supported, and the construction and maintenance of Wolfe Creek Dam on Lake Cumberland.

Bunning, whose retirement has opened the seat Paul and Democrat Jack Conway are fighting for this fall, didn’t fare as well as McConnell, according to the poll.

Bunning’s approval rating:

  • 11.0% strongly approve
  • 32.7% somewhat approve
  • 14.2% somewhat disapprove
  • 24.6% strongly disapprove
  • 16.5% don’t know
  • 1.0% refused to answer

Bunning took criticism this spring for blocking a bill to extend unemployment benefits. Even McConnell declined to stand with him, although McConnell most recently joined Bunning’s chorus when the issue came up again before the Senate.

The lower approval rating for Bunning compared to McConnell wasn’t an indictment of Bunning’s positions, Robertson said.

“Jim Bunning is a different individual. Wanting to limit the scope of government is a basic tenet of what it means to be a Republican,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s a reflection of his philosophy. You either like him or you don’t. He doesn’t mince words.”

As for Obama, he remains unpopular in Kentucky, which went for Republican John McCain in the 2008 election.

Obama’s approval rating:

  • 15.3% strongly approve
  • 25.7% somewhat approve
  • 13.4% somewhat disapprove
  • 42.2.% strongly disapprove
  • 2.8% don’t know
  • 0.6% refused to answer

The unpopularity has increased the rate at which Republicans mention Obama’s name on the campaign trail.

“I would expect that we’ll be taking about Washington Democrats a lot,” Robertson said. “The beauty is when it comes to Frankfort, it’s relevant.”

Specifically, he said House Democrats adopted a similar approach to the Democratic-led Congress this year when they advocated for $1 billion in debt to pay for state construction projects, including schools, which they said would create jobs.

The Republican-led state Senate balked at that and the final version of the state budget didn’t include that spending.

But Logsdon, the Democratic chairman said Kentucky voters “are more savvy than that.”

“President Obama isn’t on the ballot this fall,” he said. “The economy is the number one issue. I think people are gong to remember how they got in this mess and it was the Republicans.”

- Ryan Alessi


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