New poll numbers released on Thursday hold troubling signs for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
According to the survey -- conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy For America -- Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's Democratic secretary of state who officially entered the race on Tuesday, leads the longtime senator by one point, with 45 percent to McConnell's 44 percent. While her lead is within the margin of error, the poll also underscored some broader issues that McConnell is likely to face as he campaigns for a sixth term.
At 51 percent, a majority of Kentuckians say they disapprove of McConnell's job performance, while 40 percent approve and 9 percent are undecided. Those numbers are an improvement over an April PPP poll that showed him to be one of the least popular senators in the country, with a 36 percent job approval rating. His lagging numbers reinforce a longstanding problem that McConnell has had wrangling support for his reelection bid.
PPP surveyed 1,210 Kentucky voters for the first two questions, with a margin of error of 2.8 percent. PCCC reportedly plans to release additional findings from the survey at a press conference later on Thursday.
“It’s no surprise that Kentucky voters have had enough of Mitch McConnell’s partisan gridlock,” said Jonathan Hurst, senior adviser to Lundergan Grimes. “For thirty years, McConnell has been the embodiment of all that is wrong with Washington and has no problem turning his back on Kentucky’s middle class.”
"George Soros and the Obama Allies are up to their same old tricks," said McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton. "They have concocted another fictitious poll that has no basis in reality, held it for ten days, and released it at the perfect time in the news cycle to help their upstart liberal candidate. This poll has zero credibility and should be ignored out of hand."
PPP's polling was lauded for its accuracy during the 2012 election cycle.
Previous polls by the firm, taken in April and May, before Lundergan Grimes officially kicked off her campaign, similarly suggested that the Democrat would be a viable threat to McConnell. A survey taken by Republican firm Wenzel Strategies last month had McConnell in better shape, leading Grimes 48 percent to 40 percent.
Potentially compounding matters for McConnell is the recent decision by Kentucky tea party activist and businessman Matt Bevin to challenge the five-term senator for the Republican nomination. Bevin was not included in the latest survey, though the Wenzel Strategies poll released in July suggested that McConnell had a strong lead over his challenger.
This article was updated to include comment from the McConnell campaign.
UPDATE: 7:23 p.m. ET -- A poll conducted by Grimes' campaign also showed the Democrat with a slight lead over McConnell, the Courier Journal reported Thursday. In that poll, Grimes led McConnell by two points.
The internal Grimes poll surveyed 750 Kentucky voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.