By Justin Sink
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Healthcare: House loosens pesticide rules to fight Zika | A GOP bill that keeps some of ObamaCare | More proof of pending premium hikes Senate votes to block financial adviser rule Reid defends embattled VA secretary MORE (R-Ky.) ranks as the nation's least popular senator, according to a new poll released Tuesday.
The survey, conducted by Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling, showed that more than half — 55 percent — of Kentucky voters disapprove of their senator, while just 37 percent of those surveyed signaled support.
"Both in terms of raw disapproval (55 percent) and net approval (-18) McConnell has the worst numbers of any of his peers, taking that mantle from Nebraska's Ben Nelson [(D-Neb.)]," PPP Director Tom Jensen said in a statement.
McConnell is still a favorite for reelection. The five-term senator is favored in hypothetical match-ups against any of the leading contenders in the Democratic field, including actress and Kentucky native Ashley Judd, who is rumored to be considering a bid.
Judd trails the senator 47-43 percent, as does Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson and Attorney General Jack Conway. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer trails 46-41 percent, and McConnell posts a double-digit advantage over Rep. John YarmuthJohn YarmuthA case for the Yarmuth-Price resolution Subcommittee clears bill on cap for phone, internet subsidies Lawmakers split on cap for internet, phone subsidies at hearing MORE (D-Ky.).
Other polls paint a rosier picture for McConnell. A Bluegrass poll released in September gave McConnell a 51-42 percent approval rating, with the senator showing strong support among self-identified conservatives. McConnell performed similarly well in a SurveyUSA poll conducted at the end of October.
Democratic primary voters currently favor Judd as McConnell's opponent, with nearly three in 10 saying she would be their top choice. Abramson ranks second at 16 percent, and Conway rounds out the top three with 15 percent.
No matter who ends up as the nominee, however, Democrats will have an uphill climb in replacing McConnell. Republicans continue to dominate in the state — Mitt Romney won by 23 points there — and voters continue to favor the minority leader.
"It speaks volumes that even a liberal Democrat pollster with an agenda to make Mitch McConnell look bad still can't find an opponent who can lead him in Kentucky," said McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton. "This Democrat poll has a long-held reputation for skewed approval numbers and that's obviously the case here since there is no poll, public or private, that has shown Senator McConnell's approval ratings anywhere near where PPP suggests."
McConnell also seems somewhat secure from a primary challenge. Half of Republican voters say their preference is that McConnell, the longest-serving Republican senator in the state's history, again becomes the nominee. And in a hypothetical head-to-head primary match-up against Rep.-elect Thomas Massie, McConnell wins 66-18 percent.
—This post was updated at 5:00 p.m.