KEY POINTS

  • Approval ratings from Morning Consult show Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is the most disliked by state voters
  • McConnell has become a staunch ally of President Trump
  • White rural Kentucky voters tend to support McConnell the most 

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has faced criticism for his handling of President Trump's impeachment, is the most unpopular senator among voters in his state, with a 50% disapproval rating and 37% approval rating, according to approval ratings from Morning Consult.

The poll numbers could mean the Senate Majority Leader may finally face a serious challenge for his seat, which will be contended in November. He faces a stronger Democratic challenger than in previous elections, as well as primary opponents. 

There are multiple reasons why McConnell may not be well-liked by Kentucky voters. He has supported the ongoing trade war with China, which has hurt Kentucky’s logging industry. He has also been called “Moscow Mitch” due to blocking legislation that would protect U.S. election security. McConnell is also among the most prominent figures in Congress, which had a disapproval rating of 78% in June and has a 68% disapproval rating in December, according to Gallup. 

As Senate Majority Leader since 2015, McConnell has also tried to obstruct Obama administration nominees. His decision to block Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 has been frequently derided by Democrats.

"If I'm still the majority leader of the Senate, think of me as the Grim Reaper," McConnell said in April about Democrat proposals. "None of that stuff is going to pass. None of it."

McConnell, 77, has been in office since 1985 and has cruised to election victories in the Bluegrass state, which is among the most Republican-leaning in the country. The last time he failed to draw 53% of the vote was in 1990.

Despite his low popularity, McConnell appears to be the frontrunner in a presidential election year. Roughly 40% of Kentuckians live in rural areas, with McConnell likely to win by huge margins there. Trump also has a 55% approval rating in Kentucky, which means that McConnell may just need a decent showing from Trump supporters to win.

While McConnell still has a strong chance of re-election, the winds may possibly be shifting in Kentucky. McConnell’s top Democratic challenger in 2020 is former Marine Amy McGrath, who may feel emboldened by the recent election win of Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear. Beshear earned a tight victory over incumbent Matt Bevin, a close ally of Trump. Trump had won Kentucky by nearly 30% in 2016.

McGrath, 44, entered the Senate race in July and has managed to raise more in fundraising than McConnell, although McConnell still has more campaign cash in the bank.

The chairman of VoteVets, a political action committee that backs liberal veterans running for office, said in May that McGrath “is the one who has what it takes" to defeat McConnell.

Joining McGrath in the Democratic field is Charles Booker, a state representative. Sports radio host Matt Jones has also considered running.

McConnell also faces a primary challenge from former GOP state lawmaker C. Wesley Morgan, who has called McConnell “self-serving.” Jenean Hampton, the former Lieutenant Gov. of Kentucky, may also consider running.

In 2014, McConnell faced Democratic Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, winning re-election with 56.2% of the vote.