With less than two weeks to go before the Nov. 2 election, Republican Rand Paul holds a slim lead over Democrat Jack Conway in their race for the U.S. Senate, a new Kentucky Poll shows.
Paul, a favorite of the Tea Party movement whose campaign has focused on limited government, holds a 5 point lead over Conway among likely voters — 48 percent to 43 percent, with 9 percent undecided.
"That's not a great majority of a lead for Paul but I believe it's almost impossible for a conservative Republican to lose in Kentucky this year," said national political analyst Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
The telephone survey of 625 likely Kentucky voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Lexington Herald-Leader, WKYT-TV in Lexington and WAVE-TV in Louisville.
Other political observers said the relatively high level of undecided voters in the poll underscores the fluidity of the race.
The number of undecided voters could reflect uncertainty about a TV ad Conway launched last weekend regarding Paul's behavior in the 1980s as a member of a secret society at Baylor University called the NoZe Brotherhood, said University of Louisville political science professor Jasmine Farrier.
The ad, which has gotten mixed reaction from many Democrats, raised questions about Paul's religious beliefs and referred to an anonymous woman who alleged Paul tied her up and forced her to worship a god called "Aqua Buddha."
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon making his first bid for public office, has said the accusations are "all lies" and "completely untrue." The anonymous woman, who has been quoted by The Washington Post and GQ magazine, has disputed Paul's assertion.
Conway, the state's attorney general, still has a chance to win the race, Farrier said, but he needs to find issues to attract swing voters and make sure his base of Democratic supporters turns out at the polls.
"If Conway's supporters become upset with this week's ad, they might stay at home and not come out to vote," she said.
Other observers see the issue differently. Despite criticism about the ad, "Conway now needs to stay on the attack," said Joe Gershtenson, director of Eastern Kentucky University's Institute of Public Governance and Civic Engagement.
"To win this race, I think he has to tear Rand Paul down as an extremist who is out-of-touch with Kentucky," he said.
Paul must cut into the Democratic base to win, and he appears to be succeeding. Paul garnered the support of nearly one-fourth of Democrats.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state, 1.62 million to 1.07 million. About 200,000 Kentuckians are registered independent or with other parties.
Read more of this story at Kentucky.com