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Ky. poll suggests race a factor

FRANKFORT — Race appears to be a factor in Republican John McCain's substantial lead over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race in Kentucky, political observers say about a new poll.

The telephone survey conducted for the left-leaning political blog Daily Kos also shows Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell with a strong lead over Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford in the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky.

The telephone survey was conducted by Research 2000, a polling firm in Olney, Md., that routinely conducts polls for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

In the presidential race, McCain leads Obama by 18 points, 55 percent to 37 percent.

Del Ali, president of Research 2000, said he thinks much of Obama's problem in Kentucky is related to his skin color.

"In polls in other states, Obama usually gets at least 40 percent of the white votes, but not in Kentucky," Ali said.

Sixty-two percent of white respondents said they would vote for McCain and 31 percent for Obama. Among black respondents, 4 percent favored McCain and 87 percent Obama.

"I would not say I believe that Obama would be leading in the state if he were white, but the figures show that most Kentuckians aren't ready to vote for a black for president," said Joe Gershtenson, director of Eastern Kentucky University's Center for Kentucky History and Politics,

The bottom line: "Obama has a 50-50 chance of winning the presidency, but not in Kentucky," said Larry J. Sabato, head of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Though Democrats outnumber Republicans in Kentucky by about 1.66 million to 1.05 million, the Bluegrass State won't likely be seeing much of Obama this fall.

"Why should he spend time in a state like Kentucky where the odds against him seem insurmountable?" Ali said.

The poll shows Obama leading in only one congressional district in the state. He holds a 51-to-40 percentage lead over McCain in Kentucky's 3rd Congressional District in Jefferson County.

In Central Kentucky's 6th District, McCain leads 56 percent to 36 percent.

Among age groups in Kentucky, Obama does best among the young, but still trails McCain 47 percent to 42 percent among voters 18 to 29 years of age.

The telephone poll of 600 likely voters was conducted Sept. 15-17. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, McConnell outpaces Lunsford 50 percent to 37 percent.

"If you are in the Lunsford campaign, you would want to see a lead somewhere in the single digits," Gershtenson said.

The EKU official said Lunsford's campaign "may get more energized" with Saturday's visit of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton to the state, "but McConnell's lead will take a lot more for him to prevail."