By Jack Brammer and Bill Estep – firstname.lastname@example.org
A slim majority of likely voters in Kentucky approve of Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s job performance, a new Kentucky Poll shows.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they approve of the job McConnell has done in the Senate, where he has served since 1985 and led the GOP caucus since November 2006. Thirty-seven percent disapproved and 11 percent were not sure.
The job performance numbers for McConnell are good but not great, said national political analyst Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Sabato said numbers are worse for many members of Congress. He mentioned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.
The Democrats who lead the Senate and House “would love to have those numbers,” Sabato said.
But he noted that McConnell is a powerful Republican in a conservative state. “He ought to be higher than that.”
In comparison, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s job performance was approved by 56 percent of likely voters while Democratic President Barack Obama’s performance was approved by only 38 percent.
McConnell would like to become Senate majority leader, but most observers expect Republicans to fall just shy of that goal.
Going into the Nov. 2 elections, the Senate has 59 Democrats and 41 Republicans.
Still, McConnell has conceded nothing. He also has said he is certain he has the votes to remain the Senate’s Republican leader.
His work got a thumbs up from 69 percent of Republicans, 36 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents.
But the poll showed nearly one in five Kentucky Republicans disapproving of McConnell’s job performance.
He has been criticized by some members of the Tea Party movement for his support of the $700 billion bailout of banks and his use of earmarks to fund special projects.
When asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of McConnell, only 40 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view him. Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite who is making his first bid for public office in this year’s U.S. Senate race against Democrat Jack Conway, was viewed favorably by 42 percent of respondents.
Sabato said it is not surprising that Paul is viewed more favorably than McConnell at this point, since Paul is constantly in the news.
The statewide telephone survey of 625 likely voters was conducted Oct. 18 and 19 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C. Commissioned by the Lexington Herald-Leader, WKYT-TV in Lexington and WAVE-TV in Louisville, it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
McConnell, who won re-election to another six-year term in 2008 against Bruce Lunsford, a Democrat and Louisville businessman, had no comment on the poll’s results, said McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer.
Since more Kentuckians are registered Democrat than Republican – about 1.6 million to 1 million – McConnell must maintain support from Democrats to stay in office.
Lucille M. Gutfreund, a Covington housewife who participated in the poll and agreed to a follow-up interview with a reporter, is one of those Kentucky Democrats who support McConnell.
“I think McConnell has been all right,” she said. “I ask ‘has he helped or hurt Kentucky?’ I think he’s helped.”
Dan Powell, a retired Southern Baptist minister in Shepherdsville who leans Republican, said he appreciates McConnell’s “hard work” for Kentucky.
McConnell would not be consistently re-elected to the Senate “if he did not deliver for the state,” Powell said.