Senate races

Grimes internal poll shows tied race with McConnell

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Facing a string of troubling public polls that have shown Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opening up a solid lead, his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, released one of her own on Wednesday that pegged the race as a tie.

{mosads}The survey, from the Mellman Group, actually gives Grimes a 1-point lead, with 43 percent support from likely voters to McConnell’s 42 percent support; 15 percent remain undecided.

Candidates typically release internal surveys in an attempt to push back on a souring media narrative surrounding their chances, which is what Grimes has faced following four surveys out in the past month giving McConnell a lead greater than the margin of error.

The survey didn’t include the libertarian in the race, who observers say could siphon votes away from both candidates and, in a tight race, potentially be a deciding factor. And without further details on the makeup of the polling sample, it’s difficult to weigh the accuracy of the Grimes internal poll against the handful of public polls showing a tougher fight ahead for her — but it should be taken skeptically, as it remains an outlier in the race.

Still, in a conference call with reporters, Mark Mellman, who is also a columnist for The Hill, expressed confidence in his results, noting his firm’s success rate in previous races.

“We’ve been right when these public polls have been wrong,” he said. “I’m more confident in our methods than I am what the public polls are doing.”

Mellman highlighted his work for New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in 2013. Public polls showed Stringer trailing former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer by double digits, but his own polling nearly nailed the final margin. He also polled for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) during his 2010 reelection fight, which pegged the race correctly, even as most public polling showed Reid trailing his GOP challenger.

Mellman said he’s confident in his Kentucky Senate poll because it modeled “the likely electorate, not just likely voters,” by analyzing “each individual’s vote history and what that does to their probable vote” this cycle. He wouldn’t offer further details on how the Grimes campaign is modeling its likely electorate this fall, however.

He also hinted that the campaign chose not to release earlier internal polling, and that Grimes’s numbers had improved over the past few weeks.

The Grimes campaign promised to have polling briefings with reporters more frequently, as the race heats up into the fall, and Grimes’s senior adviser Jonathan Hurst said they fully expect the polls to continue to fluctuate, but they’re confident heading into the final stretch.

“We’ve come out [of the Labor Day weekend] now ready for this race, and as you can see, we’re in striking distance of beating the minority leader,” he said.

The survey was conducted among 800 likely voters from Sept. 4-7 with live interviews via cellphone and landline, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

— This piece was updated to correctly identify Grimes’s adviser Hurst.

Tags 2014 Kentucky Senate Race Alison Lundergan Grimes Mitch McConnell

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