Rand Paul, one of the darlings of the “tea party” movement, has moved into a solid lead in his Kentucky race for the U.S. Senate, and it is independents who have fueled his rise, according to a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling.
Paul, who defeated a GOP establishment candidate in the May primary to win the nomination, is ahead of Democrat Jack Conway by 53% to 40%, according to PPP. The winner replaces Republican Sen. Jim Bunning.
In September, Rand Paul, the son of the conservative and libertarian hero Rep. Ron Paul, was ahead by seven points and a seven-point bulge among independents. In the current poll, Paul’s lead among independents has grown to 39 percentage points.
PPP attributes the change to a sharp drop in Conway’s favorability rating in the wake of a dispute over his political ad alleging that Paul was involved in a secret college group that took a blindfolded woman to a creek and forced her to worship “Aqua Buddha.” Paul denounced the ad and replied he was a good Christian who had Jesus in his heart.
The ad seem to have backfired on Conway, whose favorability rating changed from even to negative 13 points.
The Kentucky race has been closely watched because it is one of the handful where tea-party favorites are running very strongly. Republicans need to hold the seat if they are to have a chance at increasing their standing in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Paul campaign condemned an incident Monday night in which a person affiliated with the liberal group MoveOn.org was stomped by a man wearing a “Rand Paul for Senate” T-shirt outside a televised debate in Lexington, Ky.
“Violence of any kind has no place in our civil discourse, and we urge supporters on all sides to be civil to one another as tensions rise heading toward this very important election,” the Paul campaign's statement said.
Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org, said in a statement issued Tuesday the organization is “appalled at the violent incident that occurred.”
“Numerous news reports clearly show that the young woman -- a MoveOn supporter -- was assaulted and pushed to the ground by Rand Paul supporters, where one man held her down while another stomped on her head. This kind of violence has no place in American society, much less at a peaceful political rally,” the statement said.