Rand Paul regains lead in U.S. Senate race, latest cn|2 Poll finds

09/02/2010 06:36 PM

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul and Democratic nominee Jack Conway remain within single digits of each other as Paul holds a nearly five-point lead, the latest cn|2 poll found.

Asked which candidate they would support if the Nov. 2 election were held today, 42.1% of likely voters favored Paul, while 37.4% said they would vote for Conway. The poll surveyed 802 likely voters between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1. The poll shows a four-point dip for Conway, who led Paul by a half of a point in the last statewide cn|2 Poll, taken Aug 16-18.

The cn|2 Poll taken Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 shows Republican Rand Paul leading Democrat Jack Conway in the U.S. Senate race.

Interviewers from Braun Research Inc. of Princeton, N.J. conducted the poll. It has a margin of error of 3.46 percentage points.Click here to view the detailed poll results and cross-tabs on the Kentucky U.S. Senate race.

One political observer said Paul’s 4.7-point lead is so slim that the race is essentially tied when the margin of error is taken into account.

“You really can’t say based on the margin of error that Paul’s ahead,” Richard Fording, professor of political science at the University of Kentucky, said. “It’s still pretty close.”

Paul picked up support from the last poll in Conway’s two stronghold areas from the primary, including his backyard of the 3rd Congressional District that covers Louisville. The cn|2 poll shows Paul leading Conway by 10 points in the 6th Congressional District that covers Lexington and Central Kentucky.

The poll results for congressional districts has a margin of error of about 8.8 points in this cn|2 poll.

Conway has narrowed previous gaps in the 2nd Congressional District in west-central Kentucky from eight to four points. And support for the Democratic candidate has swung 17 points in the 5th Congressional District — which covers Eastern Kentucky — over the past two weeks. Conway went from being down three points to going up 14 points in this latest poll.

Fording said Conway’s rise in the 5th District is surprising, considering Conway wasn’t expected to do well there, especially compared to how he fared against Hazard native Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo in this spring’s Democratic primary.

“He didn’t run well there in the primary,” Fording said. “And given a lack of relationship between him and Mongiardo, it was going to be a tough area for him. But Paul may have opened himself up with comments he’s made.”

Conway has focused his campaign almost exclusively on comments made by Paul to the Associated Press regarding how important Kentucky’s drug problem will be to voters this fall, with Paul telling the AP the problem won’t be a “pressing issue” in the race. Paul’s campaign has said the remarks were taken out of context, but that hasn’t stopped the Conway campaign from drawing attention to the issue.

Conway communications director John Collins didn’t address the cn|2 poll numbers directly but reiterated a Conway campaign message that the more voters learned about Paul, the more they would “understand that Paul doesn’t get Kentucky.”

“The more Kentuckians learn about Rand Paul, the more they’ll understand he doesn’t get Kentucky and his ideas would put Kentucky at risk,” Collins said.

UPDATE (7:50 p.m.) Paul spokesman Gary Howard said the poll shows voters support Paul’s platform.

“Kentuckians are fed up with the unsustainable debt and spending, oppose cap and trade and want to repeal Obamacare,” Howard said. “These issues are driving Dr. Paul to a solid lead in all credible polls.”

Since the last poll, the race has hit with television airwaves, with Crossroads GPS, a Republican group, having already aired two attack ads on Conway for his support of health care reform. Conway has also started running ads touting his accomplishments as attorney general, but his ads aren’t running with as frequently as the ads against him. So far, Paul’s campaign has yet to buy airtime for the race.

For the past two weeks, Conway has held round tables with law enforcement officers in Northern and Eastern Kentucky to discuss the drug issue and has taken the opportunity to highlight the issue in every part of the state where Conway has opened a campaign office, including Louisville, Lexington, Ashland and Bowling Green.

In response to those events, the poll asked voters whether or not they supported using federal money to help with drug enforcement and treatment. Here’s what they said:

  • 60.4% support use of federal funds to help
  • 25.9% said they don’t
  • 12.5% were unsure

More than 70% of voters in the 5th District favor using federal funds, according to the poll. Both the 2nd and 6th Congressional districts showed more than 60% support for the use of federal funds.

Fording said that Paul has become his “own worst enemy” by delivering such comments and telling voters who have been affected by the state’s drug problem that they have one of two options.

“Paul’s giving them a choice,” Fording said. “Either live with it or pay more local taxes to help.”

But an identical question attributed the candidates‘ names to their positions, showing Conway favors using federal funds and Paul favors a local approach.  Respondent support for using federal money dipped to 47.6%.

Using local taxes or donations was favored by 34.6% and 15.6% said they were unsure. In response to that question, only the 5th and 2nd congressional districts saw over 50% support for use of federal funds.

“I think it’s another example of Rand Paul just not getting Kentucky,” Collins said in response to voters’ feelings about the use of federal funds to fight drugs and to help treat addiction. “He won’t show voters his budget scheme, he doesn’t believe Kentucky miners should have protection and he doesn’t believe the scourge of prescription pills and drugs in this state, and I’m using his words here, ‘are a real pressing issue.’ “

The difference in numbers for nearly identical questions is a common issue when it comes to survey polling, Fording said. Attaching the candidate’s name to certain positions brings up two different feelings, he said, “one about policy and another toward the individual.”

“That will cause them to change their support for the person or the policy,” Fording said. “What it seems like people are doing is switching their policy when told Paul’s position toward him.”

- Kenny Colston


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