KY-Sen: Paul Leads Conway by 3

Research 2000 for Daily Kos (5/24-26, likely voters, 5/10-12 in parens):

Jack Conway (D): 41 (39)

Rand Paul (R): 44 (42)

Undecided: 15 (19)

(MoE: ±4%)

Coming off a close primary victory, Jack Conway is more beat up than Rand Paul, holding a favorable rating of 48-43 compared to Paul’s 53-33, but he’s still holding the line reasonably well. Conway wins among Dem voters by 75-7 but is losing independents by 31-42. The congressional district breakdowns are interesting, too, with Conway winning only the Louisville-based 3rd CD (by 63-26) and pulling a 43-43 draw in Ben Chandler’s 6th District. Conway’s weakest spot is the Western/Central-based 2nd CD (which contains Paul’s home base of Bowling Green), where he loses to Paul by 24-54.

83 thoughts on “KY-Sen: Paul Leads Conway by 3”

  1. at all, given it’s Kentucky in this political climate.  As you say, recent bruising primary and all.

    I’m optimistic about this race (though part of me would really like to see what sort of havoc Rand Paul would cause his own party if he got into the Senate).

  2. Granted, KY Dems aren’t the most reliable party voters but there is opportunity there.

  3. And the geography doesn’t suprise me — to win, Conway needs to rack up the vote in Louisville, do better than drawing even in the Bluegrass, and I think he’s got to win by a decent margin in the Mountain East.  I don’t think he’s going to do much better than he is now in the south or west of the state.

  4. It’s R2K, so Conway’s really down about 7 or 8.  Still, that’s not a bad starting point in a red state like Kentucky.  Still, you’d figure that Paul wouldn’t have such broad appeal among independents in the aftermath of his comments about civil rights, et al.

  5. This was the worst of the four potential matchups for the GOP, and Rand Paul had a rough week politically to say the least. Assuming he turns the gaffe machine off, this should be the low water mark for him.

  6. This poll appears to reflect a more realistic breakdown of the race at this early stage. Conway will have plenty of time to build his narrative and orchestrate a ground game to turn out the vote – which will be critical. It will be a very close race, but Paul is too ideological to stay on message and that will give Conway his opportunity to frame the election in terms of who is actually running to represent the interests and values of Kentucky.

  7. He is a good looking politician and if he loses, he doesnt have to give up his position as state Attorney General.  

  8. 43% of Grayson supporters explicitly said they will absolutely not support Paul.

    Does anyone know if 6% of republicans for Conway and that 8% of republicans undecided equals Graysons support from the primary?

    Or maybe they weren’t serious when answering that question.

  9. same way as the decideds based on party affiliation, this poll produces 50.4 Conway – 49.6 Paul.  Conway is getting 91.5% of decided Democrats and Paul is getting 93.5% of decided Republicans.  But 18% of Democrats are undecided, while just 8% of Republicans are.

  10. But let’s keep in mind that he was trailing in opinion polls before the primaries, too. Part of what we don’t know is how many potential voters are being discounted by the likely voter screen. 3 points is close enough to really depend on who turns out. So that’s a tossup, for now.

  11. I am watching this race closely because it is a good model to test my theory that Democrats can win in poor rural states if they offer to bring home enough bacon.  Lets be honest, these areas love their various forms of welfare (farm subsidies, coal subsidies, earmarks, all the personal forms of welfare, etc…).  PA-12 was a great example of this.  Democrats who promise to bring the bacon home win in poor rural areas because while they may still cling to their guns and religion, they cling their welfare even closer.

  12. of a Democratic bias from R2K but haven’t seen any proof. As far as I’m concerned, they’re are a reliable source. If someone can prove otherwise, this data are legit in my eyes.

  13. especially if the solution is just to have Paul disappear for a few weeks and let Conway dominate the on the ground and media race.

    But the fact is Paul IS a walking gaffe machine. More will come, in fact Democrats haven’t even hit him hard statewide on the fact he held his victory party in an exclusive country club, (I doubt that will endear him to poor, white Appalachian Democrats in the eastern part of the state), and his opposition to the Americans with Disabilities act, and the implications of his views on business. He’s the perfect target for Conway to run a grassroots campaign and bring Democrats in eastern KY back into the fold and into a coalition with central KY voters and the Louisville area.

    I don’t expect his campaign to get better, and this will end up being one of the most promising opportunities for Democrats come November.  

  14. I can’t imagine that Conway isn’t going to hammer Rand over the “accidents happen” comment, over and over and over again in Eastern Kentucky. (And throw in the idea that going after BP for the Gulf spill is “un-American”.)

  15. Those are three very different populations to tie together — the Appalachian east, the Bluegrass gentry, and urban Louisville — but a coalition any Democrat needs to put together to win in Kentucky.  The one thing that might hold this group together = seeing Rand Paul as a nutjob.

  16. nailed it in her comic on Rand Paul.

    Those are just some of the issues Democrats can hammer Paul with.  No TV commercials just yet, but all those things are prime candidates for a TV ad, no?

  17. because Lunsford almost did it against comparitively sane McConnell last time around, and did really well in Appalachia despite McCain’s huge coattails there.

    A Democrat also needs to do well in KY-06, the rural, conservative Eastern District.  

  18. Racially progressive Louisville will be held by Civil Rights Act Comments, while the Bluegrass area to a degree will, and then to a degree it and appalachian area will be held in by the sense that Rand Paul is pro-business. Populism will hold the rural areas in.  

  19. This poll has a 47D-42R sample and a 37-60 approval rating for Obama, both of which seem about right for Kentucky based on prior exit polls and Obama’s approval rating in other states.  I don’t think there is a Democratic skew here.  Looks like a good, internally consistent poll on the surface.  PPP was even more optimistic for Conway less than a month ago, finding Paul up 41-40 in this matchup.  

  20. it may be movement of sorts nonetheless.  My guess is that Paul got a big bounce from his nationally-trumpeted primary win, and that his embarassing rollout has simply caused him to lose his bounce.

    Part of me is interested to see what Rasmussen says next on this race, but part of me really isn’t.

  21. Let me guess, Mongiardo would be blazing ahead right? It is still a red state in a GOP year. Patience.

  22. He must do the following:

    1. Run even in KY-01, which is possible.

    2. Get in the high 40’s in KY-02, which is also possible.

    3. Win KY-03 by around 25 points, which is likely.

    4. Hold around 44% in KY-04.

    5. Run even in KY-05.

    6. Win KY-06 by high single digits.  

    That would get him to around 51%.  

  23. “Lunsford almost did it against comparitively sane McConnell last time around, and did really well in Appalachia despite McCain’s huge coattails there.”

    But the political climate is very different than in 2008. The economy is in very rough shape, some people are angry, and Obama isn’t at the top of the ticket. So it’s hard to evaluate this race just by comparing the last round of candidates to this round.

    There’s still time for stuff to happen between now and November, though. Should be interesting.

  24. are rarely credible.  Just like all the McCain supporters in 2000, or the millions of Hillary voters who everybody was so sure would never vote for Obama.

  25. Nice try, but this is about Conway vs Paul and Conway’s failure to close the gap after Paul’s statements.

    My guess is Paul will continue to make crazy statements because he knows Conway’s the type to blow a fuse and get angry.

    Paul might make some voters mad, but I could easily see Conway getting upset and turning off voters as well.

  26. really? 44% in KY-04? Not really.

    Conway needs to win about 64% in KY-04

    Lose KY-01 and KY-02 by 55-45. Then KY-04 by 58-42.

    Then he needs to win KY-05 narrowly, 51-49, and win KY-06 55-45.

    That would narrowly get him over 50%

  27. KY 1, KY 4, and KY 5 are all R+15 districts, how is he gonna even come close to running even?

  28. Let’s look at 2004 as a baseline.  It’s not perfect, since the candidates this time are from different areas of the state (Bunning was from northern KY, KY-04, Paul lives in Bowling Green, basically on the KY-02/-01 border; Mongiardo is from Hazard in the KY-05, Conway in from Louisville, KY-03).

    Mongiardo won KY-03 by 19.2%

    Mongiardo won KY-06 by 7.8%

    (both stats approximate due to only having county stats)

    Mongiardo lost over by 1.4%

  29. Paul’s outrageous rhetoric doesn’t make for the kind of scandal that voters respond to right away.  I’m not surprised at all that he maintains a narrow lead.  I wouldn’t expect ordinary voters to pay attention to all this stuff.

    Right after the primary, and 5 months from the general election, is not a time when voters want to pay attention to the general election since they’re fatigued from the primary wars, and they don’t have to think too hard about the general yet.  So a lot of ordinary midterm voters aren’t paying close attention or fully aware of Paul’s craziness yet.  It’s different when there’s a sex scandal or some other major personal scandal, but absent that, it’s hard to move numbers right away.

    Paul’s outrageousness is there to be exploited and used against him, but merely opening his mouth doesn’t move votes in and of itself.  It’s going to take effective and disciplined messaging by Conway, state Dems, and the DSCC, over time.  And now is certainly not the time to go on the air with new ads.

    All of Paul’s whackiness will be filed away and used against him in the late summer and in the fall.  And if it’s well-done, and there’s nothing equally effective used against Conway by the Rethugs, then we’ll see numbers move.

  30. And vote Republican in almost every race now.  These voters are persuadable, but it will be tough to get them.  

  31. Since that district is increasingly suburban as those three Northern counties keep growing.  Not much room to move the needle there.  

  32. Say what you will, but those rural Kentucky Democrats are not going to be persuaded by a candidate’s anger.

    They might not like Paul’s crazy comments either, but in that case maybe they’ll skip the race.

  33. 58-42. I think his ceiling is closer to 40% Surprisingly those suburban counties were some of the areas Obama most improved over Kerry.  

  34. traditionally groups more hesitant to tell pollsters their inclinations. Also 3 groups that Conway should be able to appeal with most over Paul’s statements.  

  35. This is the type of stuff Conway needs to avoid doing:

    He just comes off as pissed. I watched a couple of his other speeches on YouTube as well and came to the same conclusion.

    Fiery is good, but there’s a point where getting too fiery can be a negative.

    I could be wrong, and hopefully I am.

  36. Here’s the voter registration breakdown:

    Notice the small number of independents (‘other’). Still, it shows that Dems are sitting at 56.7%, Reps at 36.6% and ‘other’ at 6.6%. Obviously, registration and self-identification may differ, as some may consider themselves independent to pollsters, and many may be registered Democrats who frequently vote for the GOP especially nationally (and especially in East Kentucky / Appalachia). And there may be an enthusiasm gap. The CNN Exit Poll for 2008, FWIW, had it at 47-38-15 (D-R-I), so the election day will be determined in large part by which pool of voters shows up – and how well Conway is able to sway Eastern Kentucky voters who made up Mongiardo’s base.

  37. I’m going with you are wrong. I’d call that populist more than anything.

    Also, i THINK anger is good this year. The general public is angry, they’re going to want someone who is aware of that anger, and is angry as well. Not “rawr!” angry but “you are unemployed through no fault of your own and that ain’t right!” angry.

  38. I’m yet to see anyone not get angry or be received well by all from that stage. Everyone gets heckled by what is a decent 50/50 crowd.

  39. Here’s what I get when I project the poll numbers by district to show a 50-50 race:

    CD1: 52-48 Paul

    CD2: 71-29 Paul

    CD3: 77-23 Conway

    CD4: 56-44 Paul

    CD5: 51-49 Paul

    CD6: 53-47 Conway

    On the surface, that does seems really daunting for Conway.

  40. if we compare this election to 2008 and figure that Paul is a true extremist, whereas McConnell is just a mainstream conservative, in today’s politics. I would really be surprised and depressed if Paul won, and it would demonstrate a lot of bad things about Kentucky that a lot of Kentuckians don’t want their state to be associated with. I think Conway is a good campaigner and will beat Paul.

  41. but doesn’t Jim Bunning’s election and re-election already say a lot of those “bad things” about Kentucky?


    As of March, R2K has a D “house effect” of of 4.4%, relative to other pollsters; Rassmussen’s effect at that date was 5.5%.

    Nate adds this proviso

    It’s extremely important to emphasize that just because a pollster has a house effect doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. They may result from legitimate differences of opinion about how to conduct surveys.

  43. All their polling seemed to be allowing for an electorate too similar to 2008. They have corrected that now. This poll for instance has a D+5 when it was D+11 two years ago. My own rule of thumb has been to add three to the GOP and take three from the Dems in every state. Obviously the reality won’t be uniform like that but as a guide it is useful. I might diary it when I have time.

  44. While I don’t think Grayson supporters will necessarily be turning out en masse to cast a vote for Jack Conway, I think there’s a good chance they sit this one out.

    I think there’s a big difference between the aftermath of the Paul/Grayson primary and the two situations you described. After McCain and Hillary Clinton lost their respective presidential primaries, they offered full throated endorsements of the party nominees and worked hard to get them elected in the general.

    I don’t know how W. acted after he defeated McCain (my guess is like a douche) but Obama particularly worked hard to win over Hillary supporters. Paul is not gracious in victory and obviously doesn’t care what Grayson supporters think. Whatever wounds were caused by those primaries were closed very quickly and the party was able to project a strongly unified front going into Novemeber.

    This is obviously not happening in Kentucky this year. From all accounts, the “unity” event of last weekend left much to be desired. Quotes from Grayson in the press about how awkward the event was is not going to give his supporters much incentive to rally behind Paul.

  45. Paul is just plain and simply not the right fit for Kentucky. They like a family values type down the road conservative not a libertarian like Paul. That is why you will see many Grayson voters either sit it out or vote Conway. Kentucky does like it’s bacon.  

  46. I get your point, but you sound just like Andrew did when he went on his rant about the South.

    I’m certainly no moderator or anyone with any sort of power whatsoever on this site, though I do feel the need to stick up for the Rural South (and rural or southern areas in general).

    The arguments y’all make are very valid, but the way its worded really gives off the elitist vibe.

    Rural areas (especially in the South) surely need earmarks, there’s no doubt about it, but I can’t help but to think you’re attempting a witty cheap shot here.

  47. At the risk of sounding “politically correct,” the word “welfare” is now charged as a negative term in the political lexicon.

    If Conway says “More welfare for Kentuckians!” or even “I’ll protect your welfare goodies!” I think he’d lose to Paul big time.

  48. Remember that KY lagged the rest of the south in the switch to R’s at the federal level (really only happened in ’94).  Most elected D’s (statewide, state leg) are very conservative.  But the recentness of the switch means there are still a lot more registered Ds than Rs.

    Another major factor is that KY has closed primaries.  That means there is little incentive to register as an independent.  Even after ’94, it was the case until recently that if you wanted a say in who became Governor, you had to vote in the Democratic primary.  Gov races are more competitive now, but remember that including Fletcher (the previous Gov), there have only been 2 Republican Govs since the 40s.  Not only independents, but it used to be that people who almost always voted R (even in state races) would still register as D.

  49. so the McConnell comparison is valid.  Neither of these guys are Washington guys.  2008 was a huge Republican year in Kentucky.  If anything, this is one state where we can expect better ggeneric performance than 2008… and obviously it is not generic.  Paul is a far worse candidate than McConnell, and Conway is a stronger one than Lunsford.

  50. Harry Reid should promise a seat on the appropriations committee for Jack Conway if he wins in November. Mitch McConnell said to John Hoeven there’s a seat on the appropriations committee when he gets to the senate in January.

  51. Even if was a huge Republican year in Kentucky in 2008 (and I confess not knowing much about the specifics), it’s possible that it would have been even huger without Obama on the ballot, without an national unemployment rate of 10%, without all the anger that seems to be floating around these days. We can’t run the election again under different conditions and know for sure. All we can do is analyze the conditions, and to me they seem worse for Democrats this time around.

    “Paul is a far worse candidate than McConnell, and Conway is a stronger one than Lunsford.” I agree. But again, the conditions today are very different. And generic performance in midterm elections is usually worse for the party in power, and I don’t see why KY would be an exception.

    I’m not saying that Conway won’t win; I think he’s a very good candidate. I’m just saying that this will be its own race and that comparisons to 2008 just based on the quality of the candidates may be inapt. If the economy is in terrible shape, any Republican may beat any Democrat (just as it would have been hard for any Republican to win the presidency in 2008).

  52. Beshear, neither a very strong nor weak candidate, ended up winning the governor’s mansion by 18%. Polling had Clinton and Edwards competitive in Kentucky, whereas Obama lost the state by 16%. Basically, Obama was a very weak candidate for the state, only out-performed Kerry significantly in the Louisville-Lexington regions, while he did much worse in (especially) Eastern, Southern and Western Kentucky.

    Even while Obama lost by 16%, Lunsford lost by a mere 6% to a 4-term incumbent, even despite having an unenthusiastic base (and had a pretty bad margin coming out of Louisville).

    Candidates and Campaigns will matter a lot here.

  53. But (a) he was an incumbent and (b) he may have been mentally unstable but wasn’t the favorite candidate of former KKK Grand Wizards, was he? As crazy as Bunning is, did he ever voice disapproval of the 1964 Civil Rights Law and call criticism of foreign-based multinational businesses “un-American”?

  54. looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons, and various other crap I don’t remember at the moment, isn’t a huge improvement over that.

  55. So should we expect a majority of idiots and extremists in KY to elect Paul? I think the results will also partly depend on how good a campaigner Conway is. I have hope on that score.

  56. …as other pollsters.

    Really, all but one of the pollsters we see are in the same ballpark almost all the time, except for the inevitable occasional outlier that everyone has.

    Rasmussen is the exception, and they’re going from bad to worse.  But Scott Rasmussen is, with increasing obviousness, looking to set a political narrative rather than read public opinion, and make money off conservatives who are emotionally invested in believing they’re always winning and the public is always with them.  But it’s really getting ridiculous, when he has Paul up on Conway 59-34 and Lincoln down to Boozman 66-28.

    But look what’s happening in the Republican narrative!:  Paul and Republican Senate leaders keep parroting that Paul is “up 25 points”!

    What I at least find satisfying is that the political media isn’t buying it.  They’re not out there saying “Paul doesn’t seem to be hurt since a poll showed him up 25.”  They’re ignoring Rasmussen, waiting for credible polls, and reporting Paul’s troubles.  That’s the price Rasmussen and Republicans pay for Rasmussen being laughably off, instead of just marginally off.

  57. Paul’s and Grayson’s camps both credibly (IMO) stated that Grayson tried to call but Paul was on the road and didn’t have a phone handy at that moment.

    But the politics were just as damaging, the explanation never trumps the original story.

    Still, they had their “unity” rally and I expect the Rethugs to stay together behind Paul to whatever extent he can keep his mouth shut.

  58. “Liberal” (associated with loose morals and (intentional) baby-killing), “welfare” (associated with “welfare queens”), “tax” (associated with “big government”), and other words that right-wing leaders basically train their followers (and themselves too, to some extent) to have knee-jerk reactions against any suggestions of them.  They’ve been doing this to “government”, heck, despite trying to run for office to control it.  “Moderate” and “regulation” are headed this way too, heck, as is “labor” (associated with, heck, Red-Scaring/McCarthyism–talk about reactionary!).


    Also, government is just as much a part of the solution as business, so…up yours, Ronnie.

    Sorry…off-topic rant.  Just a personal pet peeve.

  59. Totally has to do with stupid right-wingers turning everything into such a dirty word.  The problem is that welfare is only associated with ‘poor dumb black people who have too many babies and need food stamps’ instead of ‘grandma who needs some help paying her medical bills.’

    If anything, people need to take the word welfare back and turn it into a positive and make everyone realize we are all a product of it probably in some way.

  60. I still believe there is a substantive difference between liberal and progressive, but it does not exist in our politics.

  61. I am sorry if my tone came off as offensive, but I was trying to prove a point.  I really do not like how many rural politicians lecture urban areas about spending when they are probably more guilty of getting pet projects.

  62. and your problem is that you view everything we say as attacks against the rural South vs analysis of a political area.  And I recognize that your reaction is a result of other people’s overall elitist reaction to the rural South, and I will admit that in my personal life (not on this site) that I do help cause that.  As a gay person, I think the rural South is a giant hot mess.

    However, until someone starts throwing in missing teeth and Mountain Dew addictions, they are probably just being statistically accurate.

  63. that big-population states like New York have a net outflow of Federal taxes to smaller-population states, including Southern ones. It’s also a fact that within the state, New York City has a net outflow of funds to Upstate New York. The outflows have to do with disproportionate political power – on the Federal level, particularly, the fact that each state has two Senators, regardless of population – and anti-city attitudes among the net fund-receiving areas and their representatives that necessitate unfair “compromises” to get ANY funding for those needy cities. Relative numbers or percentages of poor people or severity of their plight do not figure much at all in this unjust business.

    And lest you should misunderstand, I certainly consider it important for rural areas to get help; I just deeply resent the way so many people in such areas are mean-spirited about the supposedly lazy (and not incidentally, usually blacker and more Jewish) urban areas getting “welfare” and “wasteful government spending,” while they suck money from people like me. It’s a very ugly part of American politics that the communities that get most Federal aid tend to be the most anti-government, anti-tax, and anti-welfare – for everyone else. And the most Republican.

  64. because he didnt have the time (nor know how…) to fully capitalize on Bachmann being a nut.  He had a million left-over that could have gone to attacking her and driving home the narrative that a vote for the GOP was a vote for a whack job.  And his ads were non-stop, the first being a full minute for those few weeks.

    Conway needs to be working on a marketing campaign to make Paul toxic over the next few months.  Make him DOA by October.

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