A new poll shows incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell far ahead in the race to keep his seat next year, but the challenges posed by his GOP primary challenger and Democratic opponent promise a long race lies ahead for the Kentucky Republican.
The Wenzel Strategies survey
, conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, shows McConnell ahead of GOP challenger Matt Bevin by nearly 40 points. He's also holding an 8-point lead against Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Bevin, who announced his candidacy on Wednesday, was viewed positively by only 15 percent of the people responding in the poll, reports Politico
However, two-thirds of voters polled said they have no opinion about Bevin, but everyone polled had an opinion about McConnell, the Senate majority leader. He was viewed favorably by 53 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent. Another 41 percent said they will definitely vote for him, while 39 percent said they'd definitely vote for someone else.
As the race heats up, McConnell's potential general election matchup against Grimes is also bringing criticism from Democrats over their perception that the Republican Party struggles over women's issues.
McConnell plans to confront that criticism head-on, staffers told The New York Times
"The long and short of it is, we’re going to be very aggressive in making sure people don’t mischaracterize what his record is, especially when it comes to women and women's issues," said Josh Holmes, McConnell’s chief of staff for Kentucky operations. "Not only are we not afraid of it, we’re very proud of it."
McConnell has only faced a female opponent once in his 30 years in the Senate, and his potential race against Grimes is being seen by many as a reflection of how female voters feel about the Republican Party.
His campaign funding is strong, The Times reports, with trips to Florida, New York, and Texas bringing in roughly $1.7 million in the second quarter of this year, bringing his war chest to nearly $9.6 million at the end of June.
"I think everything Mitch McConnell does right now is just another example of how worried he is and how vulnerable he feels,” said longtime Democratic opponent Rep. John Yarmuth.
“Obviously, just the fact that there’s a gender difference makes Alison much more credible with women voters, and she's going to have a much more receptive audience for discussions of things like how Mitch's attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act will hurt women."
Meanwhile, Bevin slammed McConnell as a "slash-and-burn” politician who isn’t "man enough to stand on his record” in the primary, The Hill reports
McConnell attacked Bevin with an ad calling him "Bailout Bevin," alluding to the bell-making company Bevin's family owns in Connecticut that got a government grant to be rebuilt after a fire.
The ad also attacks Bevin for a number of tax liens assessed against his company.
The attack, Bevin said, isn't befitting of a Republican Senate leader.
"It’s insulting to the office of a U.S. senator to demean himself in this fashion, and I am challenging him to be man enough to stand on his record, to stand up as an elected official and talk with me … about the issues that matter to them, not issues that are going to be bought by smearing or making cute little videos," Bevin said.
McConnell's campaign called Bevin "a nuisance" candidate, but The Senate Conservatives Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Madison Project all say they are considering endorsing Bevin.
“We’re open to supporting Matt Bevin’s campaign and will be waiting to see if the grassroots in Kentucky unite behind him. The only way to defeat Mitch McConnell is to inspire the grassroots to rise up and fight for their freedoms,” Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said in a statement.
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