Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos. 9/11-12. Likely voters. MoE 3.2% (5/2 results)
Rand Paul (R) 49 (41)
Jack Conway (D) 42 (40)
The race is still engaged, but these results show us just how tough Kentucky is. Obama has a 37-60 approval rating in the state, including a weak 60-37 among Democrats (many of whom are social conservatives more than happy to vote Republican). Indeed, while the sample is 49 percent Democratic and 39 percent Republican, it's also 53 percent McCain voters and 40 percent Obama voters. It's that kind of state.
Now Conway is holding Obama supporters, but Paul is holding McCain voters, and there's lost more of those. In fact, Conway's deficit comes at the hand of those who consider themselves most conservative, since the Democrat's lead among liberals is 84-10 and among moderates 60-29. It's that 14-78 deficit among conservatives that's killing him.
Interestingly, Kentucky may be one of the few places were Democrats don't suffer from an intensity gap. PPP's Tom Jensen notes that the poll shows a Kentucky electorate that went for McCain by 13 points, when the Republican actually won it by 16. So Rand Paul is motivating Democrats, and given them a three-point intensity gap. However...
The Democrats’ problem in Kentucky isn’t the enthusiasm gap- Rand Paul took care of that for us. It’s because after showing some wariness earlier in the summer, when we had the race tied, the McCain voters have pretty much all gone home to Paul. In late June he was getting 70% of their votes and now for all his missteps he’s getting 80% of their votes. In a state that went as strongly Republican last time as Kentucky Conway is going to have to be able to pick off more of their voters than that to have a path to victory.
Now Conway still has room to grow -- 28 percent of voters still haven't made up their mind about him, compared to just 14 percent for Rand Paul. And the meth problem in Eastern Kentucky is still a viable point of attack -- with respondents saying, by 67-15 margin, that it's a "pressing issue" (Rand Paul said it wasn't one). That includes independents by a 58-24 margin, and even Republicans by 65-16. It's clear Conway will use that issue to better brand himself in the state, and he needs to because when we asked which candidate "understands the state of Kentucky" better, Paul the ignoramus fared very well -- 40 percent said "yes", 41 percent said "no" for Rand Paul, while Conway only checked in with 39-37.