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Kentucky Senate: Lunsford (D) 49% McConnell (R) 44%

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Kentucky Senate race shows Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford with a five percentage point lead over long-time Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. The poll, conducted just two days after Lunsford won the Democratic nomination, shows the challenger with 49% of the vote while McConnell earns 44%.

These results stand in stark contrast to the Presidential race in Kentucky—John McCain leads Barack Obama by twenty-five percentage points. However, just 67% of McCain voters currently plan to vote for McConnell. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of McCain voters say they will split the ticket and vote for Lunsford. Recognizing the overall political dynamic, McConnell issued a statement last week indicating that he is looking forward to running against the “Lunsford-Obama plan for America."

Given the state’s overwhelming preference for a GOP Presidential candidate, it makes sense for McConnell to link his opponent closely with the top of the Democratic ticket. It is not unusual for the number of ticket-splitters to decline dramatically as Election Day approaches.

While McConnell will try to make Obama a part of Lunsford’s name, Lunsford will emphasize McConnell’s ties to the current President. George W. Bush won 60% of the vote in Kentucky during Election 2004 but just 32% of the state’s voters now say the President is doing a good or an excellent job. Forty-eight percent (48%) say Bush is doing a poor job.

McConnell, the highest ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, is viewed favorably by 52% of the state’s voters and unfavorably by 42%. He was first elected to the Senate in 1984.

Lunsford, who served as Kentucky’s Commerce Secretary from 1980-1983, earns positive reviews from 47% and less flattering assessments from 43% of Kentucky voters. Lunsford founded a health care company in 1985 that has been a topic of conversation in earlier campaigns and will likely be scrutinized again between now and November.

The economy is viewed as the top issue by 54% of Kentucky voters. Among these voters, Lunsford leads 53% to 38%. Lunsford also leads among voters who consider the War in Iraq as the top issue while McConnell is the overwhelming favorite among those who see National Security as the highest priority.

McConnell is far from the only Republican Senator in trouble this fall. In addition to Kentucky, at least nine other Republican Senate seats are potentially in play including seats in Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, and Texas. Not all of those races will be won by Democrats, but the fact that so many Republican seats are vulnerable virtually assures that the Democratic Senate majority will grow. The underlying reason that so many Republican seats are at risk is that fewer and fewer Americans consider themselves to be Republicans.

Still, it is difficult to assess precisely how many seats the Democrats will gain in November. In mid-2006, Democrats were favored to make significant gains in the Senate but it did not appear that they would win majority control. In the end, they achieved that goal partly because the tide moved in their direction and the close races generally ended up in the Democratic column. Additionally, of course, they received a gift from former Republican Senator George Allen whose campaign fumbles gave the Democrats a seat that appeared safe for the GOP just a few months before Election Day. Allen’s gift of the Virginia Senate race put the Democrats over the top and gave them the majority by the narrowest of margins.

Looking ahead to Election 2008, we have no way of knowing whether the flow of events will move marginally in a Republican or a Democratic direction. There is also no way to anticipate other Allen-type gifts from one party to the other. However, even the most optimistic scenarios for the GOP show the Democrats picking up several seats. Dick Morris anticipates a possible GOP Senate massacre in November.

Rasmussen Markets data shows that McConnell is given a % chance of keeping his job. These numbers are updated on a 24/7 basis by market participants. It costs nothing to join and add your voice to the collective wisdom of the market.

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Likely Republican

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McConnell (R)




Lunsford (D)




This telephone survey of 500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports May 22, 2008. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

See Methodology.

Favorable Ratings for Senate Candidates in Kentucky




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About Rasmussen Reports

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.

The Rasmussen Reports ElectionEdge™ Premium Service for Election 2008 offers the most comprehensive public opinion coverage ever provided for a Presidential election.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade.