Early this year, Democrats thought they had the key to unseating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the 2014 election. Her name was Ashley Judd. Anyone following Kentucky politics knows, however, that Judd threw cold water over all the speculation in March by stating she would not run. That left the Dems scrambling for a viable candidate against the man who is the most unpopular Senator in the country.
Enter Alison Lundergan Grimes. On July 1st, Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State announced she would accept the challenge of deposing five-term Senator McConnell. Lundergan Grimes has a lot of weapons in her arsenal that have every likelihood of bringing her success.
First of all, she comes from a well-established political family that has extensive connections at both the state and national level. Both of her parents have held prominent positions in the Democratic Party, with her mother, Charlotte Lundergan, being the current Democratic National Committeewoman from Kentucky. All of those connections, of course, mean that McConnell’s massive war chest won’t present much of an obstacle for Lundergan Grimes, who has the potential for some pretty hefty fundraising of her own.
Also, in her first run for political office–for secretary of state in 2011–Lundergan Grimes won more votes statewide than any other Democratic candidate. That’s saying a lot considering that most of Kentucky’s top offices are held by Democrats, including governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and state treasurer. Much of Lundergan Grimes’ focus was on her opposition to the Republican candidate’s proposal to require photo IDs at the polls. Over 60% of the voters apparently agreed with her.
All of this would imply that Kentucky is a blue state, in spite of Mitch McConnell’s perpetual hold on office. While state offices are largely occupied by Democrats, Kentucky’s delegation to the U.S. Congress consists primarily of Republicans, plus the state went decisively for Mitt Romney in the last Presidential election. Nonetheless, poll results–conducted by both political parties–show Lundergan Grimes within striking distance of McConnell. Even the one GOP poll puts her within 7 points of the minority leader, while the others reveal an even narrower gap. Not bad for a campaign that has just begun.
Earlier this month, in Lundergan Grimes’ first speech before national party leaders and major donors, the candidate reportedly ‘wowed’ the crowd. She addressed a gathering that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee assembles each year. Her speech on job-creation, plus a full-throttled attack on McConnell, apparently brought a cheering audience to their feet. A donor anonymously told the Huffington Post:
I’ve been going to these for years, and I have never, until this morning, seen a candidate get a standing O. It was amazing.
‘Amazing’ is what the race needs, for Kentucky is clearly weary of a senator who has over-stayed his welcome, yet wary of President Obama. McConnell is trying to paint Lundergan Grimes as an Obama handmaiden, but the secretary of state is carefully honing her message with the needs of her constituents in mind. She won her statewide election by advocating a pro-business agenda. Recently, in a major appearance before county officials from around the state, she also distanced herself from some of Obama’s most unpopular positions, saying:
Coal keeps the lights on here in Kentucky. I disagree with the president and his philosophies in terms of coal. I stand by the 15,000 men and women who are employed here in the state of Kentucky.
And while saying there is much wrong with the Affordable Care Act, she added:
…but instead of trying to repeal it nearly 40 times, wasting our taxpayer’s money, we should be talking about solutions.
This is not a race to be taken for granted. Lundergan Grimes has so far proven herself a savvy campaigner, but McConnell is both dogged and vicious toward opponents. With any luck, Matt Bevin, the Tea Party candidate challenging McConnell in next year’s Republican primary, will leave the Senator so bruised that, even if he is victorious in the primary, much of the Democratic candidate’s job will have already been done.
The bottom line is: this race can be won. McConnell can be defeated. The candidate doesn’t have to be 100% in line with the President’s policies to be 1000% better than the current senator. Time for Democrats and liberal independents to rally round, lending both monetary and energetic support to this, as well as other, closely fought battles. Time to say, Bye-bye, Mitch McConnell–and gang!
Edited and published by CB