Despite initial hopes by Democrats in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., about Lexington Mayor Jim Gray’s prospects against Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a new GOP poll shows him trailing by double digits heading into the final week of their race.
According to a telephone survey of likely voters last week, conducted by the Republican firm RunSwitch Public Relations and obtained by Morning Consult, Paul leads Democrat Jim Gray, 52 percent to 42 percent.
Despite his deficit, the same poll found Gray significantly outperforming Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who trailed Donald Trump, 32 percent to 56 percent.
Gray has sought to capitalize on Trump’s presence at the top of the ticket in an unusual way: pulling the Republican senator apart from him. In a campaign ad, Gray used Trump’s own critiques of Paul from when the two were running against each other for the Republican presidential nomination.
Paul, Trump said during a visit to the state at the time, is “a disaster” and is “using the people of Kentucky,” an articulation of a point Gray’s campaign has been attempting to make that Paul is running for re-election just so he can run for president again in 2020. “The people of Kentucky should get a senator that wants to represent them,” Trump also said in comments that are featured in a commercial.
One Democratic operative familiar with the strategy said it is also an appeal to a southern voter’s “sense of loyalty to the state.” While Paul left Kentucky to run for president, a move that left Republicans briefly wary about who would carry their mantle should he not come back, Gray, a wealthy businessman, has spent his time as mayor of the Bluegrass State’s second largest city, the thinking goes.
According to the RunSwitch survey, the effort has not been successful. Trump has solid support from Paul’s supporters, leading Clinton 85 percent to 4 percent. Among Gray’s supporters, 71 percent back Clinton and 19 percent back Trump.
Kentucky has been a reliable state for the GOP, aside from its support for Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, in 1992 and 1996. Not since 1992 has the state elected a Democrat to the Senate, and just last year, a Republican won the Governor’s Mansion – only the third to do so since the 1960s.
The survey’s crosstabs are available here.