A new independent poll shows Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell: Trump needs to 'catch up fast' on fundraising McConnell dodges on whether Trump is qualified to be president Sunday shows preview: Next steps after Trump upheaval MORE (R-Ky.) cracking 50 percent support for the first time in his battle with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, and is the latest in a series of surveys to give him a four-point lead.
Nineteen percent of respondents said they “might change their mind” about the race between now and Election Day.
It’s the fifth poll out of the past six to give McConnell a four-point lead over his Democratic opponent, and the first to put him at the 50-percent mark considered comfortable for an incumbent.
And it comes despite a difficult week for McConnell, which saw him under fire from Democrats for comments he made to a private gathering of conservative strategists that were leaked to the public, and facing questions about the resignation of his campaign manager amid a bribery scandal.
Democrats note that the poll didn't include the libertarian candidate in the race, and also that it was conducted from last Thursday through Monday, when news of the resignation hadn't yet taken hold in the race.
But Grimes has had a rocky few weeks herself, struggling to answer questions about her campaign bus, which appears to have been rented from her father’s company for a lower-than-market rate that may amount to an illegal in-kind contribution.
That might in part explain why she faces a potentially troubling defection of Democrats in the new CNN poll. It shows 16 percent of Democrats are supporting McConnell, more than twice the number of Republicans she’s drawing away from the senator. And that might indicate McConnell's argument that his clout in the Senate is needed in Kentucky is taking hold.
President Obama remains deeply unpopular in Kentucky, with only 29 percent of respondents approving of his job performance. Republicans have done all they can to tie Grimes to the president — particularly on the issue of coal, which makes up a significant portion of Kentucky’s economy.
Despite Grimes’s efforts to distance herself from the president, those attacks appear to have worked, as McConnell leads by 20 percent in eastern Kentucky and 28 percent in western Kentucky, the state’s two coal-producing regions. Grimes, however, leads substantially in the more urban areas of the state.
McConnell still remains the Democrats' top Senate target this cycle, due in part to his unpopularity in the state, but the new poll indicates how tough he'll be to take down this fall.
The survey was conducted among 671 likely voters via landline and cellphone interviews, and has a margin of error of 4 points.