Battle lies ahead for U.S. Senate race

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Change may come slowly to Kentucky, but things are definitely changing when it comes to public opinion about issues including smoking, gay marriage, medical marijuana, minimum wage and who should be the state's next U.S. senator.

Those were among issues Kentuckians were asked about in the latest Bluegrass Poll, conducted by Survey USA in an expanded effort that for the first time brought together four major news organizations, including The Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV in Lexington.

And the opinions of those polled produced some surprising results.

Sparking the most interest was polling on the hotly contested 2014 U.S. Senate race which showed Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes with a slight edge over Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader seeking a sixth term.

Grimes led McConnell 46-42 in percentage points, according to the poll of 1,082 registered voters in Kentucky. The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, asked people who they would vote for if the race were held that day.

Were Grimes to face Matt Bevin, who is challenging McConnell in the Republican primary, she would beat him by about the same margin, the poll found.

While the candidates found their own ways to spin the findings, it is clear this race is generating enormous interest, both in and outside Kentucky. And it's clear that McConnell, a powerhouse when it comes to fundraising, campaigning and getting re-elected, is vulnerable.

"This is a close contest," said Jay Leve, the founder of SurveyUSA. "What we can say is that McConnell will not coast to re-election. He will have to battle for every vote and overcome some exceptionally negative approval favorability numbers."

The poll also found McConnell's job-approval rating in Kentucky at 32 percent, which is even worse than that of President Barack Obama, who is highly unpopular in Kentucky and earned a job approval rating of 34 percent in the Bluegrass Poll.

Ñ This editorial originally appeared in The Courier-Journal