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Kentucky Senate: McConnell Gains, But Still Below 50%

United States Senator Mitch McConnell has a seven-point advantage over Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Kentucky voters. It’s McConnell 48%, Lunsford 41%.

These results are an improvement for the incumbent from a month ago when McConnell trailed by five percentage points. That earlier survey was conducted just two days after Lunsford won the Democratic nomination. It is likely than Lunsford was enjoying a bounce at that time following positive coverage of his Primary victory.

Still, any incumbent who polls below the 50% level of support is considered potentially vulnerable and McConnell remains in that category. McConnell may benefit from that John McCain is doing very well in Kentucky’s Presidential race, a fact which definitely improves the Senator’s chances in November. McConnell hopes to capitalize on this and, immediately after Lunsford won the nomination, the incumbent issued a statement saying he is looking forward to running against the “Lunsford-Obama plan for America."

McConnell, the highest ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, is viewed favorably by 56% of the state’s voters and unfavorably by 40%. Those numbers reflect a slight improvement for the man first elected to the Senate in 1984.

Lunsford, who served as Kentucky’s Commerce Secretary from 1980-1983, earns positive reviews from 43% and less flattering assessments from 46% of Kentucky voters. Those ratings are down from a month ago when 47% had a favorable opinion of the Democrat. 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.

McConnell is far from the only potentially vulnerable Republican Senator this year… and is in much less danger than several of his colleagues.. In addition to Kentucky, many other Republican Senate seats are potentially in play including seats in Mississippi, Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, and Virginia, 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.

Only two Democratic seats are currently in play—New Jersey and Louisiana.

It remains 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. Issues like yesterday’s gun control ruling may marginally help Republicans and the ultimate impact of the energy issue is difficult to project. There is also no way to anticipate other Allen-type gifts from one party to the other. However, it is virtually impossible to envision a scenario without some Democratic gains in the Senate

Last month, when Rasmussen Reports issued our Kentucky survey, the McConnell campaign team chose to attack the results and our firm. For those who are interested, Rasmussen Reports is proud of our track record. We provided a very accurate assessment of the Kentucky Governor’s race last fall, and in Senate races across the nation. An independent analysis of 32 public polling firms found Rasmussen Reports to be among the most accurate.

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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Kentucky Likely Republican

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2002 Results

McConnell (R)




Lunsford (D)




This telephone survey of 500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports June 25, 2008. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

See Methodology.

Kentucky Trends: McConnell vs. Lunsford






















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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.