University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
Information was also gathered by Paige Hobbs, Megan Ingros, Anthony Pendleton, Ben Tompkins and Brenton Ward.
Alison Lundergan Grimes is struggling to become familiar even to her fellow Democrats, but Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell may be losing touch with voters who have elected him to 30 years in the Senate, according to some Kentuckians who said they plan to vote in the Nov. 4 election.
Those were two findings of students in an advanced journalism course at the University of Kentucky, who recently had telephone conversations with some of the voters who were polled and agreed to follow-up interviews.
Some voters still don’t know who Grimes is, or what she stands for. “I just don’t know anything about her,” said a fellow Democrat, 49-year-old John Bartley of Owensboro. “With Senator McConnell you know what you are getting. Experience.”
Grimes must limit her losses among Democrats like Bartley, because polls indicate McConnell will do better among Republicans than she will among Democrats.
But McConnell has his own problems with voters like Chris Mason, 45, a Republican and member of the U.S. Army from Corbin, who said in the poll that he was undecided, and reiterated that in the interview.
“Typically I vote Republican,” Mason said, “but obviously I'm not all that wild about Senator McConnell.”
Mason also criticized Grimes, saying her television commercials have lacked substance. “The ads she's putting out aren't really doing much for me,” he said. “What I'm interested in is how is she going to help fix the problem? If she can't articulate to me how that problem is going to be fixed, then it'll be difficult for me to give her my vote.”
Grimes's self-promotion problem has allowed McConnell to paint her as an agent of President Obama, a tactic that appears to have worked on some Kentuckians. Some voters, like Janice Hirth of Covington, are purely basing their decision on their dislike of President Barack Obama.
Some Republicans say that, too. George Manning of Danville said he's voting for Grimes. “I’m registered Republican but I usually will pick a candidate by their issues, but this time, in that race, it’s simply because I don’t like him,” he said. “He does not have a reputation for bipartisanship, and there’s too much division between the Republicans and Democrats.”
Manning told the poll that he feels only neutral about Grimes, though: “I’m really not for her as much as I am against him,” he said. “I just don’t want to see him get it in there anymore. He’s made up this deal about war on coal and there’s not a war on coal, there’s a war on clean air.”
That's a minority opinion. The poll found that 75 percent of the self-described likely voters in the election believe there is a war on coal, making it one of the few issues in the race that seems to unite voters, even outside the state's two coalfields.
“I'm for Mitch McConnell,” said Republican Betty Bowling, a 70-year-old retired schoolteacher from Barlow. “I appreciate that he's for coal in Kentucky.”
Bartley, who said he has worked as a coal-mine operator for almost 20 years, was quick to point out that despite being a registered Democrat he wants what’s best for his area and his family. And for him that means a more secure coal industry, and a vote for McConnell. “He understands how important coal is to us in Western Kentucky.”
In Eastern Kentucky's Wolfe County, conservative Democrat James Porter, 85, told the poll he was undecided but said in an interview that he is voting against Grimes rather than for McConnell because he fears Grimes will fail to support the Kentucky coal industry.