Friday, August 15, 2008

Kentucky U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Kentucky U.S. Senate

August 15, 2008
81 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican (change from Leans R)

First elected in 1984, Republican Mitch McConnell has moved up his party's ranks in the Senate and currently serves as the GOP Leader. The husband of the U.S. Labor Secretary is known as a shrewd political operator in Washington D.C. and a powerful political boss of sorts at home in Kentucky. He has survived difficult reelection campaigns before but his last race was a cakewalk. This time however, Democrats are far more motivated to try to pull off what would be a major upset.

Bruce Lunsford, a wealthy health care executive, has unsuccessfully sought the Democrat for Governor in the last two Kentucky state elections. Despite those failures, he jumped into a U.S. Senate primary sort of late in the game, after some other Democrats had declined to run, and his name recognition and checkbook helped him easily win his third try for a party nomination. Nonethless, Lunsford has remained a controversial figure of sorts in the party as many have never quite forgiven him for endorsing the Republican candidate for Governor back in 2003, after his own bid had ended.

McConnell's difficult job of being a Congressional leader perhaps brought down his numbers at home, and gave hope to Democrats that they might have an opportunity to do what Republicans did in 2004 to the Democrats' Senate leader. Indeed it appeared that Lunsford had gotten a bit of a bump around the time of his May primary victory as a couple polls showed a very close race between him and McConnell. One Rasmussen poll even showed Lunsford holding a not insubstantial lead, in a result that many in both parties chose to take with a grain of salt.

More recently though, McConnell has ramped up his reelection efforts and the polls are showing that may be paying off. Both Rasmussen and Survey USA show McConnell moving from a lead in the single digits to one of 12 points. The incumbent also now seems to be running at above the 50 percent level.

Democrats still do well in many Bluegrass State government races, but in a state where John McCain will easily defeat Barack Obama, McConnell now seems to be moving into the sort of lead he might be expected to have and is likely to win another term as Minority Leader, even though he wishes he were back in the majority.

McConnell campaign link:

2008 U.S. Senate races predicted: 5 D, 6 R
Predicted Senate balance of power thus far: 44 D, 32 R


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