Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular Senator in the country. Only 37% of Kentucky voters approve of him to 55% disapprove. Both in terms of raw disapproval (55%) and net approval (-18) McConnell has the worst numbers of any of his peers, taking that mantle from Nebraska's Ben Nelson.
McConnell is predictably very unpopular with Democrats (23/73). But his numbers are almost as bad with independents (33/58) and even with Republicans he's well below the 70-80% approval range you would usually expect for a Senator within their own party (59/28).
As unpopular as McConnell is, Kentucky is still a state that voted for Mitt Romney by 23 points last month and because of the political lean of the state, he leads all of the Democrats we tested against him in head to head match ups. 3 of them- Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, Attorney General and 2010 nominee Jack Conway, and actress Ashley Judd- come within 4 points of McConnell at 47/43. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer trails by 5 at 46/41, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has a 7 point deficit at 47/40, Congressman John Yarmuth is down 10 at 48/38, former Ambassador Matthew Barzun lags 48/37, and State Auditor Adam Edelen trails by 12 at 48/36.
The reason McConnell does decently well in the head to head match ups despite his poor approval numbers is that even though a lot of Republicans dislike him, most of them would still vote for him in a general election before they would support a Democrat. This is the same phenomenon we saw in Florida and Pennsylvania this year where Bill Nelson and Bob Casey won by solid margins despite middling approval numbers because Democrats that weren't thrilled with them still voted for them. And although independents don't like McConnell they don't like most of the Democrats either, and they support McConnell in every match up we tested.
Ashley Judd is the clear choice of Democratic primary voters to be their candidate in 2014. 29% say she would be the first pick, followed by Abramson at 16%, Conway at 15%, Grimes and Yarmuth at 9%, Fischer at 5%, Edelen at 2%, and Barzun at less than 1%. Judd is a particularly popular choice among young voters and those describing themselves as 'very liberal.'
The primary action in 2014 might not all be on the Democratic side. Among Republican primary voters only 50% say they want McConnell to be their nominee against next time, while 35% would prefer a generic 'more conservative' candidate.
Kentucky is a tough state for Democrats- but given how unpopular McConnell is and the lack of other opportunities for the party to play offense in 2014, this should be a race to watch.
Full results here