Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., may have a popular Democrat to defeat and a Republican primary challenger waiting in the wings to beat him up on the airwaves, but so far the king of campaigns is holding strong in his bid for re-election.
According to a Wenzel Strategies survey out Thursday, McConnell has plenty of room between him andopponents on both sides of the political spectrum. In a race against Democratic opponent Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell leads 48 percent to 40 percent. And in a race against Republican primary opponent, business leader Matt Bevin, it is a total blowout with McConnell trampling him by nearly 40 points at 59 percent to 20 percent.
Moreover, the five-term Senate veteran remains popular in the Bluegrass State, with 53 percent supporting the job he is doing and 41 percent saying they plan to vote for him.
But Bevin has a lot of room to grow. Tea Party firebrand Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has the highest favorability in the state at 61 percent and Bevin, a Louisville, Ky., millionaire, has said he will finance his own campaign and is seeking endorsements from some of the same key conservative groups who support Paul and have often been critical of McConnell's leadership style.
Bevin officially declared his candidacy Wednesday and has already attracted the attention of tea party groups like the United Tea Party of Kentucky, which endorsed him immediately. National campaign groups, however, like Club for Growth, which grades lawmakers strictly on their conservative economic records, said they would hold off on endorsing anyone at this point.
"The Club for Growth PAC met with Matt Bevin many months ago and we'd like to hear more about his candidacy and the differences between him and Senator McConnell," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a released statement.
Senate Conservatives, another GOP PAC that helped launch the careers of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have also hinted they are considering supporting Bevin, but need more time to get acquainted with his political style.
Grimes also could give McConnell more of a contest than the incumbent leader expects. Only 25 percent of voters polled had formed an opinion of her, leaving lots of room for her to pick up support. Grimes was elected as secretary of state in 2012 with the most votes of any Democratic lawmaker on the state-wide ballot.
"My sense is that Kentucky voters are not excited about what they see so far in her candidacy, but seem to be willing to give her at least one more look before passing an electoral judgment," Fritz Wenzel, president of Wenzel Strategies, said in a release about his survey.
The poll was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday and surveyed more than 600 Kentucky residents who plan to vote in the 2014 midterm election.