In a new survey released Wednesday, Public Policy Polling found that in a hypothetical 2016 presidential race Democratic Hillary Clinton leads Republican Sen. Rand Paul in Kentucky.
Clinton is the outgoing U.S. Secretary of State who many Democrats want to run in four years, while Paul is a rising GOP star and Tea Party favorite. Both are rumored presidential candidates at this point, but the PPP survey shows Clinton ahead of Paul by a 5-point margin in the commonwealth at 47-to-42 percent.
A large reason for Clinton's lead is that she is far more popular in Kentucky than President Obama, who has struggled amongst state Democrats.
Clinton has a 48/42 favorability rating with Kentucky voters. By comparison Barack Obama's approval rating is 38/59.
The reason Democrats lose time after time in Kentucky despite having a large registration advantage is that a very large number of Democrats don't vote Democratic for President, but Clinton would win over a lot of the party faithful who have declined to support Obama, Kerry, and Gore.
"The fact that Hillary Clinton would be in a position to win Kentucky, perhaps more than any other data we’ve seen over the last month, shows what a formidable candidate she would be for president in 2016," Public Policy Polling President Dean Debnam said in a news release.
The polling firm also found that Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is the most popular elected official in the state with a 51 percent approval rating. Beshear won re-election in a landslide last year, and although the governor has not voiced any interest in running for another public office he would lead Paul in a mock match up by a 2-point margin.
This survey comes off the heels of a poll that showed Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular Senator in the country with just a 38 percent approval. Paul had a job approval rating of 43 percent.
In response, the McConnell campaign ripped the PPP survey as a "junk poll" to damage the GOP leader.
"It speaks volumes that even a liberal Democrat pollster with an agenda to make Mitch McConnell look bad still can't find an opponent who can lead him in Kentucky," McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement. "This Democrat poll has a long-held reputation for skewed approval numbers and that's obviously the case here since there is no poll, public or private, that has shown Senator McConnell's approval ratings anywhere near where PPP suggests."