Kentucky Democrat Chandler barely leads GOP opponent

Lexington Herald-LeaderOctober 22, 2010 

U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, is barely clinging to his House seat as the Nov. 2 election approaches, a new Kentucky Poll shows.

Forty-eight percent of likely voters surveyed in Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District said they would vote for Chandler, compared to 44 percent for Andy Barr, his Republican challenger. Eight percent were undecided.

Chandler's four-point lead is within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Chandler also should worry about other numbers in the poll, said J. Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., which conducted a district-wide telephone survey of 500 registered voters Oct. 15 to 19 for the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV.

Only 46 percent of voters said they approved of Chandler's job performance as congressman while just 42 percent said they held a favorable opinion of him.

The fact that Chandler fell under 50 percent on all those questions — after four terms in Congress and two decades in Kentucky politics — suggests that many undecided voters would consider a change, he said. These sorts of numbers often precede an incumbent getting the boot, he said.

"The big picture is, this seat is definitely in play," Coker said. "Chandler may still pull it out. But he's going to really have to work for it in these final days."

Nationally, Democrats are expected to suffer at the polls because Americans are unhappy with their leadership of Congress as the economy continues to sputter, said Transylvania University political scientist Don Dugi.

"It's just unfortunate timing for Chandler," Dugi said. "Individual members of Congress aren't fighting their own local battles, really, they're fighting a national battle where there is a wave of hostility against the incumbents this year."

"In any other election year, without the protests and the wave effect of the Tea Party people, Andy Barr would not have been a serious candidate and Ben Chandler would have won re-election again quite handily," Dugi said. "But this is not a typical election year."

Since winning his seat in a 2004 special election, Chandler has been popular enough to routinely trounce opponents. The Republican Party didn't even field a challenger in 2006.

This year, some Barr supporters who participated in the poll said their philosophy was ABC: "Anybody But Chandler."

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