Last week, I endeavored to explain why I felt the prospect of an Ashley Judd Senate bid was not a particularly great idea, despite the fact that she is a perfectly nice person. This week, the folks at Public Policy Polling went out and asked around about it, and their poll respondents are pretty determined to prove me wrong. The two factors at play:
1. Senator Mitch McConnell is very unpopular right now.
McConnell seems to be personally bearing more than his share of the global disapproval of Congress, which is perhaps appropriate given the fact that he runs the most filibusteringest Senate in human history. "Only 37% of Kentucky voters approve of him to 55% disapprove. Both in terms of raw disapproval (55%) and net approval (-18) McConnell has the worst numbers of any of his peers, taking that mantle from Nebraska's Ben Nelson."
Also: "McConnell is predictably very unpopular with Democrats (23/73). But his numbers are almost as bad with independents (33/58) and even with Republicans he's well below the 70-80% approval range you would usually expect for a Senator within their own party (59/28)."
The big caveat, of course, is that Kentucky loves the GOP: Romney won Kentucky by 23 points.
2. Judd is in the competitive part of the anti-McConnell mix.
Along with Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson and Attorney General Jack Conway -- who was the nominee in 2010 -- Judd is, at the moment, within 4 points of McConnell at 47/43. She is also currently the top pick of Kentucky Democrats, by a considerable margin: "29% say she would be the first pick, followed by Abramson at 16%, [and] Conway at 15%," according to Public Policy Polling.
My argument against this remains based on fundamentals. The Democrats that succeed in this region, at this level, look more like anti-cap-and-trade, anti-Obamacare Democrats like Joe Manchin. The look less like Judd, who is an outspoken fan of the Affordable Care Act and a well-known environmental activist. And Democratic politicians that succeed in Kentucky have to do things like pander to creationists, as the commonwealth's current Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has done.
The folks at PPP offer their take:
The reason McConnell does decently well in the head-to-head match-ups despite his poor approval numbers is that even though a lot of Republicans dislike him, most of them would still vote for him in a general election before they would support a Democrat. This is the same phenomenon we saw in Florida and Pennsylvania this year where Bill Nelson and Bob Casey won by solid margins despite middling approval numbers because Democrats that weren't thrilled with them still voted for them. And although independents don't like McConnell, they don't like most of the Democrats either, and they support McConnell in every match-up we tested.
PPP adds, "Judd is a particularly popular choice among young voters and those describing themselves as 'very liberal.'" This suggests that Judd's prospects would be significantly improved if Kentucky somehow became filled with very liberal people. I agree: That would really help!
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