With polls showing Grimes down or tied to McConnell can she still pull off an upset?

09/22/2014 09:10 PM

A string of recent polls show Alison Lundergan Grimes trailing or within the margin of error to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, but observers say there’s time to close the gap with more than a month before Election Day.

Last week the Courier-Journal reported that those watching the race say Grimes may need a “reset.”

Perhaps taunting the Grimes campaign, Josh Holmes, who is effectively running the McConnell campaign after former campaign manager Jesse Benton resigned the position amid a growing bribery scandal , tweeted that Grimes was floundering in the polls.

“You know @AlisonForKY is in a tough spot when she’s sending out emails with subject ‘We’re tied’ citing a poll showing her down 4,” Holmes tweeted Monday.

While the Grimes campaign struggles against millions of dollars from the McConnell campaign and outside political action committees defining her as “Obama’s candidate,” there was another Democrat who also attempted to carry Obama across the election finish line against McConnell — Bruce Lunsford.

Lunsford, who faced McConnell in 2008, was behind McConnell by double digits in the polls heading into the last two months of the election.

In June of 2008, a SurveyUSA Poll showed McConnell leading by four points. In September of that year the left leaning Daily Kos published a poll showing McConnell leading Lunsford by double digits 50 to 37, and a second September poll showed McConnell up by 17 percent.

The week before the election in 2008 the Courier-Journal released a Bluegrass poll showing McConnell with 47 percent support among respondents and Lunsford at 42 percent.

McConnell won the election in 2008 with 53 percent of the vote to Lunsford’s 47 percent.

“Most people don’t pay a lot of attention until the end”

In a phone interview with Pure Politics, Lunsford said this election cycle differs from the race he ran in 2008, when then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama became president amid a collapsing economy.

However, Lunsford contends that Grimes has the same issue to battle in the Democratic president’s unpopularity in Kentucky, though she does not have Obama at the top of the ticket.

“She’s trying to combat that,” Lunsford said, adding that McConnell has done a good job of tying Grimes to Obama.

Calling Grimes’ race an “uphill battle” Lunsford said she will need help from Democratic-leaning PACs to compete in the waning days of the election.

However, he said that Democrats should not give up on Grimes’ chance of knocking off the five-term incumbent.

“She has put herself in a position to win,” Lunsford said. “I’m very proud of her. I think she comes across very well.”

All about outside help

Republican analyst Les Fugate, a former deputy secretary of state under Trey Grayson, agrees that it will take outside help for Grimes, though he is uncertain if major support will be there when she needs it the most.

“When you look across the country, all of the other Senate races are tighter,” Fugate said.

The point — Democratic PACs that are trying to help keep the U.S. Senate in their party’s favor may contribute to more winnable races rather than take a gamble in an uncertain or Republican-leaning race in Kentucky.

That said, Fugate went on to say there is still “plenty of time” in this race.

With 43 days before the election and a debate still to take place, Grimes could go on a run or lose steam in public polling, but Fugate said the polls generally close near Election Day.

“The polls are generally more tight right before the election one way or another,” Fugate said.

Warning against any comparisons between the election in 2008 and this election, Fugate said Republicans have been ready for this race.

“There is a big difference,” he said. “This is the first time I have ever seen a true turnout effort in Kentucky. They started building it a year in advance for Republicans.”

Democrats are also known for their get-out-the-vote work. The Kentucky Democratic Party is already canvassing stretches of Louisville in an effort to draw Democrats to the polls by keying in on down ballot races.

Weathering the outside money

Sherman Brown, a Democratic analyst and former deputy campaign manager for Gov. Steve Beshear in his 2011 run, said Grimes has weathered a storm of negative advertising and still has a shot at unseating McConnell.

“The U.S. Senate race has been and will be up for grabs,” Brown said. “Alison Grimes has withstood $30 million of negative attacks and the election continues to be close. That has to be a concern to the McConnell campaign. I expect it to come down to the wire.”

The Grimes campaign continues to publicly say they are in the position they need to be in to win the race.

“Public and internal polling continue to show that this race is neck-and-neck, and our campaign has what McConnell can never buy: the grassroots strength and enthusiasm needed to sprint across the finish line,” Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said.

“As long as Mitch McConnell continues to hide behind the billionaires and millionaires bankrolling his rusted Washington campaign, we remain confident that we will win on Nov. 4th.”

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@charter.com.

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