Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellDems gain upper hand on budget Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks Overnight Energy: Judges scrutinize Obama climate rule MORE (R-Ky.) has a nearly 40-point lead over his primary challenger, Matt Bevin, in a new Republican survey of the Kentucky Senate GOP primary.
The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for the pro-McConnell group Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, gives McConnell 61 percent support to Bevin’s 23 percent support.
That’s an increase in support from an early-February independent survey of the race, which showed McConnell ahead by only 26 points. But it’s actually a decrease from the last GOP survey of the race, conducted by Wenzel Strategies at the start of February, which gave him a 42-point lead.
It’s likely McConnell’s primary lead is somewhere between those two numbers — significant double-digits, still a favorable position just over two months out from Election Day.
The polling memo also notes McConnell maintains a 33-point lead over Bevin even among voters who say they’ve heard of the GOP challenger, an indication that, even if Bevin manages to increase his profile in the state, he’ll find it difficult to break ahead.
McConnell's persistently high unpopularity has given Democrats reason to believe he's one of the GOP's most vulnerable senators this cycle, but the new survey gives McConnell a surprisingly high approval rating among GOP primary voters, with 67 percent approving of his job performance, while just 25 percent view him unfavorably.
Bevin, in contrast, is seen favorably by just 21 percent of primary voters and unfavorably by 15 percent.
McConnell has sparked the ire of conservatives throughout his career but that frustration ran particularly high last month, when he was one of a handful of Republican senators to vote to raise the debt limit.
The fallout from the move was on display last week when McConnell received a lukewarm reception from activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside of Washington, D.C.
But this survey, which was conducted Feb, 24-26, about 10 days after the vote, seems to indicate he still retains some good will with Republicans.
The survey was conducted among 400 likely Republican primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
McConnell is favored in his primary, and expected to encounter Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election in Kentucky.