If there was any doubt Rand Paul is a serious candidate for the Republican Senate nomination in Kentucky it can be cast away. Our first poll of the race finds him leading Trey Grayson 44-25.
Paul is, as the conventional wisdom suggests, drawing his strongest support from Republicans who are unhappy with their party. He has a 54-22 lead over Grayson with voters who are unhappy with the GOP in Congress and a 54-18 advantage with folks who think the party's grown too liberal.
His support is broader than that though- he has a 40-25 lead even with people who like the job Republicans in Congress are doing and a 38-28 advantage with ones who are comfortable with where their party is ideologically.
Despite Paul's early advantage this race could change a lot between now and the election, primarily because neither of the candidates are all that well known at this point. A plurality don't know enough about Paul to have formed an opinion of him and a majority have no feelings one way or the other yet toward Grayson.
Among those who do have perceptions formed about them 39% view Paul favorably to 13% unfavorable and 22% view Grayson favorably to 15% unfavorable.
Paul's current strong standing certainly speaks to the increasingly favorable prospects for candidates running against the Republican establishment across the country, especially on the heels of polling last week showing Marco Rubio closing in on or even taking the lead against Charlie Crist. It's going to be interesting to see if a lot more of these insurgent candidates crop up as we turn the calendar to 2010.
Full results here