Home-court advantage: Ky. voters narrowly prefer Rand Paul over Hillary Clinton for president

syoungman@herald-leader.comMay 17, 2014 

BrianTemplate

And Kentucky's eight electoral votes go to ...

Okay, it's far too early for that, but in a hypothetical matchup in the 2016 presidential race between U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Paul would narrowly carry the Bluegrass State, according to a new poll.

The Bluegrass Poll, sponsored jointly by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Courier-Journal, WKYT-TV and WHAS-TV, found that Paul would beat Clinton in Kentucky 48 percent to 44 percent.

SurveyUSA conducted the poll of 1,782 registered voters from May 14 to 16. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Paul's lead over Clinton appears to be partially a function of gender at this point, with Paul winning 55 percent of men to Clinton's 38 percent and Clinton winning women 50 percent to 42 percent.

Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said he has heard a lot of interest in the potential face-off between Paul and Clinton.

"It's like asking whether Superman or Batman would win if they got into a fight," Voss said. "People know the battle isn't likely to happen, but they want to fantasize about it anyway."

While Clinton has remained largely silent about whether she will take the plunge and run in 2016, Paul has enjoyed a whirlwind 2014 that has seen him pronounced the front-runner in some circles for the Republican nomination.

The senator has joked that the designation sounds "unlucky," but has worked overtime to court major GOP donors and voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary states should he decide to run.

Paul has been clear that he plans to seek re-election to his Senate seat in 2016, but he has consistently said he might also run for president.

A breakdown of the poll results reveals that Clinton does best in and around Louisville, beating Paul 48 percent to 46 percent. But Paul enjoys 10-point leads over Clinton in the western (50 percent to 40 percent) and eastern (52 percent to 42 percent) ends of the state.

The two potential candidates tie with 46 percent apiece in north-central Kentucky, an area that includes Lexington and much of Northern Kentucky.

"You cannot read too much into poll results about a contest that is not happening and that is still so purely hypothetical that voters have not actually made informed decisions yet," Voss cautioned. "But the strong numbers for Clinton, even against a favorite son of the state, looks like a good sign for her in general. After years in the Obama administration, she has not shed the popularity in Kentucky that allowed her to perform so strongly in our Democratic primary."

(Clinton trounced Barack Obama by 35 percentage points and 250,000 votes in Kentucky's Democratic primary for president in 2008.)

Paul enjoys the support of 81 percent of Republican respondents to Clinton's 13 percent, while Clinton has the support of 75 percent of Democrats to Paul's 19 percent. Among independents, Paul leads Clinton 44 percent to 40 percent.

Broken down by ideology, Clinton wins 59 percent of self-described "moderates" to 33 percent for Paul. Among respondents who described themselves as conservative, Paul bests Clinton 79 percent to 15 percent, but among liberals, Clinton enjoys 88 percent of support to Paul's 6 percent.

While Paul has made outreach to minority groups one of his top priorities, the poll found that only 29 percent of black respondents would back Paul compared with 62 percent who would vote for Clinton.

Respondent Regina Lees of Elizabethtown said it's way past time to have a female president.

"I simply would vote for Hillary Clinton for president over Rand Paul because she's a woman. Women are a lot smarter than men," she said.

But James Mercer, who works in construction in Bowling Green, said he could never support Clinton.

"She let the world slide as secretary of state with the mess in Benghazi and she would perpetuate Obamacare," he said. "I'm not particularly in love with Rand Paul, but I could never go for Hillary."

Asked whether he ever could vote for a woman to be president, he responded: "I could support a woman like (former Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice, but she's too smart to run."

Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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