Has Alison Lundergan Grimes pulled even with Mitch McConnell in Kentucky?

A new poll shows Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes only one point behind Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. But the race might not be as close as it seems.

Miranda Pederson/Daily News/AP
Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks to reporters Wednesday after her appearance at the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club in Bowling Green, Ky.

So ... maybe Mitch McConnell should put away that tape measure and stop measuring the Senate majority leader’s office for drapes. You know, preparatory to moving in after he wins reelection in November and the GOP (maybe) takes control of the chamber.

We say that because Wednesday Senator McConnell’s race against Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes looks a bit tighter than it did a few days ago, when we suggested that McConnell might begin planning such redecoration.

For one thing, the latest survey of the Kentucky contest finds McConnell and state Secretary of State Grimes virtually tied. The Bluegrass Poll puts McConnell at 44 percent, and Grimes at 43, with 5 percent for a third party candidate and 8 percent undecided.

For another, the Democratic Party and the Grimes campaign are throwing money at ads in what looks like a last-month push to prevail.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had previously pulled resources from Kentucky to spend elsewhere. But now the party group is jumping back in, and has reserved $650,000 in ad air time after seeing the latest poll numbers, according to Politico.

Grimes herself has released a scathing new negative ad that charges McConnell will “say anything” to get reelected. It features secretly recorded audio of the incumbent telling wealthy donors he’ll oppose a minimum wage hike and other economic proposals backed by Democrats. (Full disclosure: a Christian Science Monitor opinion piece flashes on screen in this ad.)

Despite all this, we still think McConnell is likely to win reelection. That’s what the election fundamentals – and many forecasters – continue to say.

Take the polls. Even with the latest Bluegrass numbers, the average of recent surveys has McConnell with a statistically significant lead of 4.4 points, according to RealClearPolitics.

And the Bluegrass Poll itself has slid toward the GOP. A month ago it had Grimes up by two points. Now, it is McConnell by one.

In general, the 2014 mid-term outlook favors Republicans. Kentucky is a red state that went for Romney in 2012 by 23 points.

Thus the Upshot Senate forecast model of The New York Times gives McConnell a 91 percent chance of victory, however close the race looks in the polls. The Washington Post Election Lab model, which leans more towards the GOP, puts McConnell’s chances at 99 percent. 

The FiveThirtyEight data journalism site is more restrained, with McConnell at a 78 percent chance of winning.

In other words, McConnell should keep that tape measure around. Just in case.

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