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Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes chats with voters.
Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes a real threat to take out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Public Policy Polling for Americans United for Change, 1/24-26/14, Kentucky voters (12/12-15 results)

Mitch McConnell 45 (43)
Alison Lundergan Grimes 44 (42)

Can this race be any closer? Not only are the two candidates neck-and-neck, but McConnell is still well under the magical 50 percent-safe mark, meaning his re-election chances are seriously threatened.

Now, I have a rule that almost always serves me well: Undecided voters trend the direction of their state's partisan lean. It's not always the case, such as in the North Dakota Senate race in 2012, but generally speaking, undecideds lean red when the state is red, and blue when the state is blue. So in this case, McConnell is still the presumptive favorite simply because Kentucky is solidly red at the federal level.

But, like in North Dakota 2010, there can be additional factors at play. One will be the role of Obamacare, with McConnell promising to take away the insurance of tens of thousands of newly insured Kentuckians. That could impact the voter turnout intensity gap and maybe even rearrange partisan identification (or put more simply, get Republicans to vote Democratic). But that's all conjecture. The polling data has a more concrete problem for McConnell:

Kentucky voters (by a 57/34 margin) [...] support a minimum wage hike to $10 an hour.
Even 40 percent of Republicans support increasing the minimum wage, demonstrating strong bipartisan support. But more than that ...
42% of Kentucky voters say they’re less likely to support Mitch McConnell for reelection this fall if he votes against increasing the minimum wage, compared to only 25% who say they’d be be more likely to back him.
What's more, among undecided voters—the ones I presume will vote their state's political lean—raising the minimum wage has 53-28 support, a 25-point margin, and the kind of margin that could tip the election to the Dems. In fact, those undecided voters are more likely to punish the candidate who opposes a raise in the minimum wage, by 20 points.

Republicans have decided to stick with their unpopular positions to the bitter end, a stance that might have limited effect given a GOP-friendly Senate map, heavily gerrymandered House, and typical GOP-heavy off-year turnout. But if Obamacare and the minimum wage help take out Mitch freakin' McConnell in Ken-freakin'-tucky this year, then 2016 will be a political bloodbath, with a far more Democratic-friendly map, presidential-year turnout, and more deeply ingrained Obamacare.

And as a bonus, we will have gotten rid of McConnell, which by itself would make 2014 a wonderful year indeed.

Originally posted to kos on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 12:31 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos Elections, My Old Kentucky Kos, and Daily Kos.

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