On the road with Mitch McConnell: Unpopular leader holds onto power

  • Supporters of Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a campaign rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Supporters of Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a campaign rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at a rally at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington Ky., on the last day of campaigning, Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), addresses a group of supporters during a rally in Lexington in support of Mitch McConnell, Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Supporters of Mitch McConnell (R-KY at a rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Diptych showing supporters of Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a campaign rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  with his wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY) in Louisville, Ky., Monday, Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Diptych showing supporters of Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a campaign rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Supporters of Mitch McConnell (R-KY at a rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY) in Louisville, Ky., campaigning for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Supporters of Mitch McConnell (R-KY at a rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Supporters of Mitch McConnell (R-KY at a rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) greats supporters at a rally in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Supporters of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Supporters of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) with and Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY), Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (far left) and Sen. Rand Paul (far right) at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington Ky., on the last day of campaigning, Nov. 3, 2014.
  • Waiting for Sen. Mitch McConnell at the Louisville Marriott where his victory party is scheduled to be held, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • Supporters of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) await his arrival in the  hall at the Louisville Marriott where they hope to celebrate his victory, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • Supporters of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) await his arrival in the  hall at the Louisville Marriott where they hope to celebrate his victory, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • 10-year-old Gabriella Baiano, a young supporter of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) whose brother works for the campaign posed by the stage before the big victory party at the Louisville Marriott, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • Supporters of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) await his arrival in the  hall at the Louisville Marriott where they hope to celebrate his victory, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • A supporter of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at his victory party in Louisville, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • Kentucky voters after they voted at Bellarmine University, an independent, private, Catholic university in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • Supporters of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sing the National Anthem at his election night victory party Nov. 4, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), attends a victory party for Kentucky Republicans and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who defeated Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, in Louisville, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • A supporter of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at his victory party in Louisville, Nov. 4, 2014.
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accompanied by his wife Elaine Chao at his election night victory party at the Louisville Marriott on Nov. 4, 2014. McConnell defeated Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Nov. 4, 2014.

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Updated

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has emerged victorious in his hard-fought re-election campaign for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky against Democratic rising star Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

NBC News projected that McConnell would retain his seat for a sixth straight term with 60% of precincts reporting.

McConnell won his race despite Kentucky voters’ negative views of him. The Republican incumbent has a 52% unfavorable rating to just 46% favorable in the NBC News exit poll, which is usually dangerous territory for a sitting senator. Fortunately for McConnell, Grimes proved to be a lackluster candidate. 

President Barack Obama has a 63% disapproval rating in the Blue Grass State to just 37% approval.  According to the exit poll, Grimes’ voter rating stands at 54% unfavorable to just 43% favorable.  The Democrat was also seriously undercut by the broader political environment.  More than half – 52% – of Kentucky voters feel that the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. 

Kentucky is one of the numerous states where the big question is whether voters see this election as a referendum on President Obama.  The president has a 63% disapproval rating in the Blue Grass State to just 37% approval. Half of Kentucky voters said that Obama factored into their vote for U.S. Senate, with those looking to express opposition to the president outnumbering those expressing support by a 38% to 11% margin.

At the end of the nearly $80 million race for Kentucky Senate, Grimes was comparing her race against McConnell to David and Goliath. “David just happens to be a female,” she said Sunday. 

NBC News election unit contributed to this report.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography 

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