Poll: Mitch McConnell leads Matt Bevin by 32 in Kentucky GOP primary

That’s among likely voters too, although when you’re looking at a lead this big, it doesn’t much matter which slice of adults you’re using.

I thought next Tuesday’s primary night open thread would be rip-roaring food-fight fun between “true conservatives” and RINOs. Instead, we’re destined for a snoozer. Note the tea-party numbers, in particular. Bevin never got traction even among his ostensible core constituency.


This poll from Marist was the first taken of the race by a major pollster since February and only the third taken in Kentucky this year but McConnell’s been comfortably ahead in all of them, ranging from 26 to 42 points. People who are watching the race closely seemed to know the score even without any recent (public) data, though. The Senate Conservatives Fund, which McConnell had vowed to “crush” because of its spending against Republican incumbents, stopped airing ads in Kentucky last week, a sign that they were giving up on the race.

How come Bevin never caught on? Lots of reasons. McConnell had sky-high name recognition and a huge war chest, of course, but his team also cannily buried Bevin’s messaging under numerous low-grade controversies (including cockfighting), dubbing him “Bailout Bevin” — even though it was McConnell who voted for TARP in 2008. And despite being endorsed by several tea-party commentators and outside groups, Bevin never landed any big names among Republican politicians. No Palin, no Ted Cruz (who said he’d stay out of races involving GOP incumbents but added that that wasn’t set in stone), and of course no Rand Paul, the one guy more than any other who could have gotten Kentucky tea partiers’ attention on Bevin’s behalf. Instead Rand endorsed McConnell. The establishment will be grateful.

Key question now: How much will hard feelings among Bevin fans hurt McConnell in the general election against Alison Lundergan Grimes? If you believe Marist, quite a bit. Check out the percentage she’s pulling among conservatives against Mitch the Knife.


McConnell leads her by one whereas Bevin trails her by nine — thanks in part to the fact that 28 percent of conservatives say they’d vote for Grimes if he’s the nominee. Those are, presumably, Mitch fans, feeling as hypothetically disgruntled about losing the primary as Bevin fans will feel next Tuesday night. But all of that is evanescent; hard feelings will soften over the next few months, especially as excitement builds on the right for what might be another wave this fall, and McConnell will open up a safe-ish lead — probably. Read this Nate Cohn piece from March to see just how strong McConnell’s position is. Beating him in this state, under these particular political circumstances, would be “all but unprecedented.” The only hitch is the fact that he’s unpopular at home, with both his job approval and favorable rating underwater. To win comfortably he needs to make nice again with independents. Otherwise, it’ll be close.