The Kentucky Democratic Senate primary just got heart-attack serious, if a new Charles Booker/Amy McGrath poll is to be believed.
Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker is pulling ahead of former Marine combat pilot Amy McGrath in the state’s Democratic Senate primary, according to a new poll released Thursday by the progressive think tank Data for Progress.
The survey, conducted from June 13-15 by the online polling company Civiqs, found Booker leading McGrath 44 percent to 36 percent. It’s the latest sign that Booker is heading into the June 23 primary with significant momentum despite McGrath’s outsize fundraising advantage and longtime lead in the polls.
The Data for Progress/Civiqs poll also found McGrath’s favorability rating under water. Of the 898 registered Kentucky voters surveyed, only 24 percent said they have a favorable view of the former fighter pilot, who launched her Senate campaign last year with the support of Democratic Senate leaders in Washington. Fifty-nine percent reported having an unfavorable opinion of McGrath, while 18 percent said they were unsure.
Fewer voters, meanwhile, said they have an opinion of Booker, with 38 percent unsure of how to view him. Still, 33 percent said they have a positive opinion of him compared to 29 percent who reported an unfavorable opinion.
McGrath has long been seen as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in November. But Booker has emerged as an unexpected threat in the final weeks before the June 23 primary, especially amid ongoing protests over racial injustice and police brutality.
Louisville, Booker’s hometown, became a hotbed for those protests after 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, an unarmed black woman, was shot and killed by police in March while officers executed a no-knock search warrant at her apartment.
Booker, a freshman state lawmaker, has appeared frequently at the protests in Louisville, and has knocked McGrath for not being more present at the demonstrations. An advertisement launched this week by Booker’s campaign features a clip of McGrath from a June 1 Democratic debate explaining that she had been absent from the protests because she was spending time with her family.
McGrath’s campaign has noted that she has attended several events and met with community leaders in recent weeks about the issues of racial inequality and police practices.
Despite Booker’s lead in the latest Data for Progress/Civiqs poll, the primary is expected to be highly competitive. McGrath has a massive financial advantage over Booker – her most recent federal filings show her with more than $19 million in cash on hand. And other recent polls show her leading in the race.
A recent internal poll released by Booker’s campaign showed him trailing McGrath by 10 points. Still, that suggests that his standing in the race has improved drastically. A similar internal poll fielded in April showed him down more than 50 points.
I hate to say it, but this brings to mind the 2015 Bluegrass/Survey USA poll showing Jack Conway had an 5-point lead over Matt Bevin heading into the gubernatorial election, a race that Bevin ended up winning by 9 points. Bluegrass was fired as a pollster and went under, their reputation in the state ruined.
On the other hand, Bevin's commanding win in 2015 because, among other things, Bluegrass's model fatally undercounted white GOP non-college men, was the canary in Coal Country that presaged the rise of Trump a year later.
It's possible that the Civiqs poll is predicting the new model correctly and that the effect of Breonna Taylor's death at the hands of LMPD will rewrite the race, not only next week, but in June as well. It's possible that it's a national trend that will wipe out the GOP, including Trump and McConnell, in November.
Or not. Booker could win and then lose to McConnell by 20 points as opposed to the somewhat closer race McGrath has been running.
We'll see what happens next week.