McConnell pollster tests new attack ad on Bevin

Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) internal pollster is conducting surveys testing a new attack ad on his primary challenger, businessman Matt Bevin.

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The online survey, reported by the Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO), was conducted by Voter Consumer Research, the firm headed by McConnell’s longtime internal pollster, Jan van Lohuizen. It was sent to LEO from “a Democratic operative with ties to Kentucky.”

It includes a new TV ad that hammers Bevin for exaggerating his educational credentials on his LinkedIn profile and for the recent TARP document controversy, and tests which issue is more damning for the candidate.

Both have become problems for Bevin in the race and fueled a recent radio ad from McConnell’s campaign that claims they’re evidence of a “history of deceptions.”

McConnell's campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the poll.

The survey also asks respondents to rate McConnell, Bevin and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has endorsed McConnell but has previously caused the senator somewhat of a headache by praising Bevin and faltering when asked point-blank why he’s supporting McConnell in the race. Paul later gave an emphatic explanation for his endorsement and has generally been an active surrogate for the Senate minority leader.

And it tests one Republican not yet engaged in the Kentucky Senate race: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a well-respected party figure who has been quietly endorsing House candidates this cycle. Bush is considered a potential 2016 presidential contender, and the endorsements have given him the opportunity to maintain a public profile.

It seems Bush could weigh in on the Kentucky Senate race as well.

Bevin's campaign spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said the survey was just evidence McConnell's campaign realizes the candidate's a threat.

"McConnell's continued mudslinging is further proof that conservative Matt Bevin is more than just a 'speed bump,' " she said. "With his approval ratings in the tank, it's no surprise that McConnell has to throw mud about Matt Bevin. With a record like his, it is his only option."

Curiously, however, the survey also tested Bevin and McConnell against Gurley Martin, the colorful Kentucky Republican who received less than 1 percent of the GOP primary vote during his stalled bid for Senate in 2010. Martin made another go this cycle but dropped out shortly after announcing his intention to primary McConnell.

— This piece was updated at 11:30 a.m. to reflect comment from Bevin's campaign.