Independents have moved toward Rand Paul in droves over the last month and a half and as a result he's built his lead in the Kentucky Senate race up to 13 points at 53-40.
In a September PPP poll Paul led by 7 overall while also holding a 7 point lead with independents. Now that advantage with independents is a whooping 39 points at 66-27. There's been virtually no movement among Democrats or Republicans over that period of time so most of the movement in the race can be attributed to that shift.
There's been no change in Rand Paul's favorability numbers in the wake of the controversial 'Aqua Buddha' ad. He's at a net +6 (49/43), virtually identical to his +5 (45/40) a month ago. Jack Conway has seen his numbers plunge though. Where before voters split evenly in their assessments of him, giving him a favorability of 36/36, they now view him mostly in a negative light at -13 (39/52).
There's little doubt the ad has backfired. 56% of voters say they think it was inappropriate to only 15% who think it was alright. Even Democrats feel by a 41/24 spread that it crossed the line and perhaps relating back to Conway's huge new deficit with independents they think it was wrong by a 68/7 spread.
Others have compared this ad to the 'Godless Americans' one that Elizabeth Dole ran against Kay Hagan in the final days of the 2008 campaign and it's an apt comparison. A week out it was pretty clear that Dole was headed for defeat- a narrow defeat but a defeat nonetheless. She had to do something to change the game and it backfired on her and she got blown out by 9 points instead of losing narrowly. It's a similar story here- Conway was going to lose unless he did something dramatic. He did and now he's probably going to lose by a lot more than if he had not run the ad. Clearly religion is something politicians should probably stay away from in their ads. Still Conway was right to do something to change the game even if this was the wrong something.
Conway's path to victory was always dependent on getting folks who voted for John McCain to support him this time around but he just never developed the sort of crossover appeal that he needed. Only 8% of McCain voters are planning to support him, a smaller number actually than the 9% of Obama supporters going for Paul. In particular Conway has fallen short of getting the conservative Democrats that he needed to win this race, as evidenced by the fact that Paul is taking 25% of the overall Democratic vote.
At the end of the day Barack Obama's approval rating is 34% in Kentucky. It's going to be hard for Democrats to win open seat races this year where that's the case, unless they're running the most popular politician in the country as they are with Joe Manchin in West Virginia.
Full results here