So far Alison Lundergan Grimes has fared remarkably well against Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in conservative-friendly Kentucky during a conservative-friendly year.
But lately there have been signs of trouble for the underdog Democrat, even as she remains upbeat about her chances. Two more of them emerged on Friday.
A Rasmussen poll found Grimes trailing McConnell by a margin of 44 to 52 percent, the best result for the 30-year Republican senator in more than a dozen recent surveys. (The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.)
Rasmussen surveys have in the past been criticized for overstating the strength of conservative candidates, but the poll is still welcome news for McConnell: He expanded his lead by 3 points since the last Rasmussen poll in September.
Also on Friday, Gallup reported on “a series of disheartening figures” for Grimes.
One was that Kentuckians increasingly identify as Republicans — today by a margin of 45 percent to 39 percent. As recently as 2013, Democrats held a two-point advantage. Another was that President Barack Obama’s job approval has slipped to an abysmal 29 percent in the Bluegrass State (which helps explain why Grimes has actively distanced herself from Obama, facing criticism for repeatedly refusing to say if she voted for him). A third factor was that Kentuckians have low confidence in the national economy.
“As a candidate taking on a powerful, long-serving incumbent senator, Grimes undoubtedly has a lot going against her,” Gallup concluded.
The shifts come in the same week that Senate Democrats’ campaign arm abandoned the airwaves in Kentucky (though they say they’ll continue polling and funding get-out-the-vote efforts), opting to utilize funds in other competitive states.
In a memo circulated to reporters on Wednesday, Grimes’ campaign manager Jonathan Hurst downplayed national Democrats’ move and promised a “strong finish” in the race, touting her remarkable $4.4 million in cash-on-hand, and pointing to signs that her message is being viewed more favorably by Kentuckians.