Get PJ Media on your Apple

Politics Get Pricey — and Nasty — in Kentucky

Young Democrat guns for majority leader in closely watched Senate race. (For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)

by
Rob Longley

Bio

July 29, 2014 - 12:03 am
Page 1 of 2  Next ->   View as Single Page

The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky has long been billed not only as one of the nation’s most competitive in this year’s midterms, but as potentially the most expensive ever.

Most political analysts say spending in the race between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and state Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-Ky.) could reach $100 million by Election Day. That would beat the current record for a Senate race, the $82 million spent in Massachusetts in 2012, when Democrat Elizabeth Warren defeated the Republican incumbent, then-Sen. Scott Brown.

With a truckload of money — $36 million — already raised by the two campaigns, and most polls showing a statistical dead heat, it’s perhaps not surprising that the battle between McConnell and Grimes has also turned into one of the nastiest campaigns in the U.S. this year.

Grimes is taking a familiar tack for a challenger, saying McConnell, a 30-year veteran of the Senate, has been in Washington too long, is out of touch with regular Kentuckians, and, as part of the leadership on Capitol Hill, has become part of the partisan gridlock that plagues the capital.

McConnell, meanwhile, says Grimes is nothing more than a liberal rubber stamp for President Barack Obama’s agenda, most of which is highly unpopular in Kentucky.

Coal Country

The two camps have traded jabs, barbs and counter-punches for weeks now on everything from Medicare, jobs, the Affordable Care Act — even that most hallowed of political touchstones, Kentucky basketball. And of course no political race in Kentucky would be complete without a fight over coal, with each campaign trying to convince voters that their candidate is the one committed to the state’s struggling coal industry.

In some ways, the race is following a national template of sorts in this year’s midterm elections: Republicans portraying Democrats as lackeys for an unpopular president — and Democrats running as far and as fast as they can from the same man. But even when the race mirrors that national theme, the issue of coal makes its way to the fore.

“[Grimes] has proven that she will say one thing to Kentuckians but does the opposite when she’s with her inner circle of supporters who have a long record of backing anti-coal, anti-Kentucky policies,” said McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore , referring not only to Obama but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Warren. Warren, a rising star in her party, has campaigned with Democratic Senate candidates, including Grimes, in several battleground states.

Since entering the race, though, Grimes, 35, has been consistent in her opposition to Obama’s proposed regulations on coal-fired power plants. The proposal, energy trade groups say, would be devastating to Kentucky’s coal industry and would increase home heating prices on the poor.

“I strongly oppose President Obama’s attack on Kentucky’s energy industry,” Grimes has said. “This administration has taken direct aim at Kentucky’s coal industry, crippling our state’s largest source of domestic energy and threatening thousands of jobs.”

Still, the McConnell campaign says Grimes was silent on the issue before she got into the race. And it never fails to mention that she was a delegate to the 2012 Democratic convention that nominated the president for a second term.

Both candidates are trying to “exploit the coal issue for its symbolism,” says D. Stephen Voss, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s Department of Political Science.

“McConnell has attempted to use coal as the centerpiece of an argument that big government interferes in negative ways in American life,” Voss says. “Grimes has attempted to use coal as a simple way to convince voters that she will not be a consistent ally of President Obama [and] Harry Reid.”

Eastern Kentucky’s coal country has long been a bedrock of Democratic support, and that remains the case for local offices. But in statewide elections, the areas along the West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee borders have voted increasingly for Republicans. That, analysts say, is a problem for Grimes, who needs to run more like those local candidates by presenting herself as a native Kentuckian first, one who stands with the coal miners and other workers who have struggled to keep their jobs.

“Grimes needs to distance herself as much as possible from unpopular national Democrats,” Voss says.

In many ways, McConnell, 72, has the opposite problem. It’s not the national GOP Kentucky voters have a problem with — it’s more McConnell himself.

“McConnell is seemingly vulnerable because he’s in the congressional leadership and easily connected to the great amount of dysfunction in Washington,” says Geoffrey Skelley, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and associate editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an election forecasting site based at U.Va.

“Correspondingly, his approval rating has been as far down as the low 30s in the last year or so and his favorable rating is also very low. So McConnell is not a terribly popular individual, and really, never has been.”

Medi‘scare’?

While coal will remain an issue throughout the campaign, the race has recently centered less on regional themes, and more on national issues such as Medicare.

Grimes has attacked McConnell for his support of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget proposal, saying the plan would have raised costs on seniors by $6,000. In a controversial television ad that began airing earlier this month, Grimes sits with Don Disney, a retired coal miner, who looks into the camera and asks McConnell “how you could have voted to raise my Medicare costs by $6,000? How are my wife and I supposed to afford that?”

The ad, which got a “false” rating from PolitiFact, is misleading at best, analysts say. For one thing, anyone 55 and older would not have been affected by the plan’s Medicare model. Disney is 75, so under no circumstances would his Medicare costs increase under the Ryan proposal.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Are we supposed to rally to Mitch's side? We the people would actually be better off if he lost. It'd clear the way for REAL republican leadership to possibly step up in the senate.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Those who let their emotions rule and vote Democrat are liberal fools.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I for one will donate to the Democrat. It's the first non-Republican candidate I have ever donated to. Better to throw out Ditch McConnell and fight against a one-term Democrat in 6 years than reward that lying treasonous snake of a politician.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (30)
All Comments   (30)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I will be interested to see how Mitch "the Turtle" McConnell fares in this contest without the support of those Conservative and Tea Party voters that he has spent the last four years smearing and blocking their candidates at every turn. Remember Mississippi will be sweet music to play as this RINO Quizzling sinks beneath the waves.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
McConnell, like most liberal Republicans, hates Tea People more than Liberal Dems and would rather see dems elected than Tea People.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>>>Grimes is taking a familiar tack for a challenger, saying McConnell, a 30-year veteran of the Senate, has been in Washington too long, is out of touch with regular Kentuckians, and, as part of the leadership on Capitol Hill, has become part of the partisan gridlock that plagues the capital.

McConnell, meanwhile, says Grimes is nothing more than a liberal rubber stamp for President Barack Obama’s agenda, most of which is highly unpopular in Kentucky.<<<<

THEY ARE BOTH RIGHT.

First, we know that the vote count nationwide is going to include massive cheating by the Democrats. We have watched it grow for decades, and the very leadership of the Institutional Republicans who demand our support have refused to fight it.

IF the Republicans are to take the Senate at all, it will have to be a wave election beyond the margin of cheating. Anything less than that means Harry Reid remains in charge anyway. Thus, the Democrats will lose well over 6 seats, or remain in control.

If the Institutional Republicans gain control of the Senate under Mitch McConnell; whose trademark is NOT fighting Obama, getting pork for it, and who has openly and without any mitigation declared war on the TEA Party and base, there is absolutely no indication that a) he will suddenly stand up to the Left, or b) he will deviate from his goal of destroying/subjugating the TEA Party and the base.

If Mitch McConnell is sent off to a lucrative career bribing his former colleagues for favors; 1) the remaining Institutional Republicans will have to realize that there are costs to collaborating with the Left against their own base, b) we might get someone in who will fight the Left so that we don't have to defeat the Republicans before fighting Obama, and c) there is therefore a slight chance that we can save the country before things go Clausewitz.

Sounds like it makes much more sense for the TEA Party and Conservatives to leave the Senate ballot blank in Kentucky. There is no real downside, and with the Democrat cheating and polling being 50-50; that is all it should take.

Subotai Bahadur
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Brilliant. My feelings exactly, but you said it so much better. Bravo.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
In many ways, McConnell, 72, has the opposite problem. It’s not the national GOP Kentucky voters have a problem with — it’s more McDonnell himself.

“McDonnell is seemingly vulnerable...


Anyone else notice the switch from McConnell to McDonnell and back again?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the catch!
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tenant (d) in West Virginia is playing the same game. Claims she is a dem and will protect coal energy for all W Virginia and unions.

It doesn't matter how they vote and they are lying.

If dems control the Senate, they will continue to have their Majority Leader Reid block all bills that would have protected Tenn and WV.

Neither Grimes (d) nor Tennant (d) will ever have to take a vote to protect their states, as they claim.
If they do, it would be up/down so their names are not attached.

13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
When a Senate seat cost a $100 million, whoever gets that seat is bought and paid for by special interest groups. Big money creates these career politicians and has them in their back pockets, while the voters and taxpayers get stuck with the booby prize.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Only took $300,000 to rally a campaign and recall based on gun control
Out of state leftists spent more than $3 million.
Dems are pooling all their funds from around the nation into these races, buying up tv time, banks and banks of bloggers, internet ad space.
I haven't seem republicans/libertarians change their campaign message after they got into office to suit a donor...but I have countless examples of dems doing it for sure.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
After what he and his cronies did in MS, and given that we are gonna pick up more senate seats than six anyway, I'd love to see this RINO slimeball tossed a country mile.

Wish Bohener was up too.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Boehner is up. Why not give up one Congressional seat in Ohio to send a message to all the cowards in the Republican Congress that think Amnesty is such a great idea maybe they would like to join Eric Cantor at his new lobbying job.

VOTE DEMOCRATS OUT IN EVERY SLOT ON THE BALLOT UP AND DOWN THE LIST, FROM DOG CATCHER TO THE US SENATE. But don't vote one vote for any RINOs in leadership. The rest of the Congressmen and women will get the message loud and clear or we target them next.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, it would be novel to have gop leadership who would actually fight for their own platform instead of stabbing those in the back who are trying to.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
It says a lot about Mitch that people are on the fence whether him losing or not would help Republicans overall. Do you want an additional Republican vote in the Senate or do you want a leader in the Senate who will actually fight for Conservative values? I'm leaning towards the latter.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
You don't have the option of electing a conservative senator in Kentucky at this point in the cycle. McConnell won the primary so your only choice is between him and a Democrat.

The time to replace McConnell was in the primary. Ditching him now means you wait six more years to try to beat Grimes. She might actually have made a (positive) name for herself in that time and be hard to beat....
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would rather have senate.
Having someone else that ends up losing the senate means that person is of little use anyways the way the Dem senate majority leader runs things.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
As an outsider looking in, it seems to me that McConnell is "just a rubber stamp for the nobama agenda" so they really don't have a point in using that argument!
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Are we supposed to rally to Mitch's side? We the people would actually be better off if he lost. It'd clear the way for REAL republican leadership to possibly step up in the senate.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK. So you want the Republican to lose a seat in Senate to a democrat to guarantee Dem senate control?
We are better off if he loses and Reid stays in office?
So at what point does this real republican leadership step up? In 5 years?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Last time Mitchey and his ruling class gop cronies had control of "two halves of two thirds of government", the left advanced its agenda at an unprecedented pace anyway (see the Bush years). What's the difference? Sorry, but we need new leadership in the party. Period.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 Next View All