Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has a comfortable lead against Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin in the state’s GOP Senate primary. But he is in a dogfight in a potential general election battle against Democrat Alison Lundergran Grimes, the Bluegrass state’s secretary of state.
A Wenzel Strategies poll has McConnell with a 59-17 lead over Bevin and a one-point lead against Grimes. Bluegrass Poll found that McConnell had a 55-29 lead against Bevin but was trailing Grimes by four points in a potential general election battle.
Former President Bill Clinton is campaigning for Grimes on Tuesday as she gears up for a general election race against McConnell.
The poll comes after McConnell took tough vote recently on the “clean” debt ceiling bill. McConnell voted to advance the bill, which raised the debt ceiling without any spending cuts attached, then voted against the bill on the merits, but said afterwards he had to help it pass to help “protect the country.”
The vote might have provided Bevin momentum, but Bevin has been blunted by his difficulty explaining his signature on a 2008 pro-TARP letter sent by an investment company he was president of.
Bevin started his campaign by attacking McConnell for supporting the bailouts, and his campaign’s response to the revelations that Bevin signed a letter supporting TARP has been described as “clumsy.” Further complicating matters for Bevin is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’s (R-KY) endorsement of McConnell, which Bevin has emphasized came before he entered the race.
As The Hill notes, Paul’s endorsement of McConnell has made it more difficult for “Bevin to rally conservative activists against McConnell.” Jesse Benton, Paul’s brother-in-law and a former Ron Paul for President campaign manager, is also running McConnell’s campaign. McConnell, in turn, may provide Paul with some establishment support behind the scenes should Paul choose to run for president in 2016. Benton is expected to play a major role in a potential Rand Paul presidential campaign.
Paul’s strong support for McConnell has also caused some anger against Paul by some Tea Party activists.
According to The Hill, Bevin had $523,000 on hand at the start of the year, while McConnell reported $10.9 million. The Bevin campaign, though, believes that the race against McConnell begins in earnest in April and that the “last six weeks of this campaign are when it is going to be won.”