By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Democrat Hillary Clinton would fare better in Kentucky in the 2016 presidential election than the state’s junior senator, Republican Rand Paul, a new poll says.
The poll also says University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has a higher favorability rating in the state than does his counterpart at the University of Louisville, Rick Pitino.
Earlier this week, the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling also said Republican Mitch McConnell of Louisville is the most unpopular U.S. senator in the country but leads all Democrats who have been mentioned as possible opposition against him in his 2014 re-election effort.
The poll Wednesday showed that Clinton, who now is the U.S. secretary of state, would be a formidable candidate for president in 2016 in a state where the Republican nominee has captured at least 50 percent of the vote in the last four presidential elections.
The poll showed Clinton with a 48 percent favorability rating with Kentucky voters, compared to 38 percent for President Barack Obama.
In a 2016 presidential showdown, the poll said, Clinton would outpace Paul in Kentucky 47 percent to 42 percent, and 48 to 40 percent for Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
The poll showed Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear as the state’s most popular politician, with a 51 percentage approval rating.
Despite Beshear’s popularity, the poll respondents said they would generally prefer a Republican than a Democrat to be the state’s next governor, 42 to 39 percent.
A hypothetical 2016 U.S. Senate race between Beshear and Paul would have Beshear ahead by a 46-44 margin. Paul would lead a hypothetical match-up against actress Ashley Judd 47-46.
The poll on Wednesday said only 37 percent of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell while 55 percent disapprove.
McConnell has the worst rating of any of his peers, the poll said.
As unpopular as McConnell is, the poll said, Kentucky is still a state that voted for Republican Mitt Romney over Obama by 23 points last month in the presidential election.
Because of the political leaning of the state in federal elections, McConnell leads all of the Democrats tested against him in head-to head-match ups, the poll said.
Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, Attorney General Jack Conway and Judd came within 4 points of McConnell.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer trailed McConnell by 5 at 46-41. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes had a 7 point deficit at 47-40. Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville was down 10 at 48-38, former Ambassador Matthew Barzun lagged 48-37, and state Auditor Adam Edelen trailed by 12 at 48-36.
Judd is the clear choice of Democratic primary voters to be their candidate in 2014, the poll said.
Twenty-nine percent said she would be their first pick, followed by Abramson at 16 percent, Conway at 15 percent, Grimes and Yarmuth at 9 percent, Fischer at 5 percent, Edelen at 2 percent and Barzun at less than 1 percent.
Judd is a particularly popular choice among young voters and those describing themselves as “very liberal,” the poll said.
Among Republican primary voters only 50 percent said they want McConnell to be their nominee again next time, while 35 percent would prefer a generic “more conservative” candidate.
The poll also said UK fans outnumber U of L fans by a 66-17 margin. Calipari had a 49 percent favorability rating, compared to Pitino’s 44 percent.
The Cincinnati Bengals won big in the poll as Kentucky’s favorite NFL team with 25 percent, compared to 11 percent for the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, 9 percent for the Indianapolis Colts, 8 percent for the Chicago Bears, 7 percent for the Pittsburgh Steelers and 5 percent for the Tennessee Titans.
Another issue the poll surveyed: Kentucky voters prefer Jim Beam over Jack Daniels, 20-18.