WASHINGTON – Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is bringing some heavy political hitters into Kentucky as part of her last-gasp effort to unseat incumbent Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, but one of her promoters certainly won’t be President Obama.
Grimes accompanied Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of the upper chamber’s most progressive members, at a stop in Louisville on Tuesday and is expected to welcome, once again, former President Bill Clinton, who is scheduled to stump for her in Louisville and Ashland on Thursday.
Clinton, who already has visited the state three times on Grimes’ behalf, is friends with her father, Jerry Lundergan, a former state representative and onetime chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.
Grimes, who actively promotes herself as a “Clinton Democrat,” already has hosted former secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in her quest to make up ground against McConnell in a race expected to go down to the wire. Clinton is scheduled to make a return visit on Saturday.
But it doesn’t appear Obama will be stopping by, even though he has started making appearance for select candidates. Grimes has spent most of the campaign trying to separate herself from the president, refusing at one point to say if she voted for him in 2012. Obama has the approval of only 31 percent of Bluegrass residents and Grimes has attempted to escape his orbit by clinging to the Clintons.
Real Clear Politics shows McConnell, seeking a sixth six-year term, with a 4.4 percentage point lead but at least one recent poll shows the race in a virtual tie. The next big survey, the Bluegrass Poll, conducted for five state media outlets by Survey USA, is slated for release Thursday.
Also perturbing to McConnell is his inability to consistently vault the magic 50 percent mark in a series of polls, a number that would all but assure him victory come Nov. 4. Of the five most recent polls in the race, only one showed him above 50 percent, leaving him with an average of 46.2 percent, providing Grimes with a potential opening.
Warren and Grimes targeted Kentucky’s women voters in their remarks on Tuesday, with both noting they support an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay for women who perform equal work and providing some assistance for those seeking to refinance their student debt – all issues that McConnell has voted against in the past.
Despite the pitch, Kentucky Democrats remain perplexed over poll results that show McConnell running even or slightly ahead of Grimes among women voters. A most recent Bluegrass Poll showed McConnell with a one-point edge among women. The Warren visit and subsequent campaigning by Hillary Clinton are aimed at propping up those numbers.
“There is no better fighter for America’s middle class, for America’s working people, than Alison Lundergan Grimes,” Warren said. “Alison is willing to fight back and better yet, Alison is willing to fight forward.”
Warren further noted that McConnell and his fellow Republicans are in the Senate “to work for the millionaires and billionaires.”
“This is right in line with the Republican philosophy across the board, because their view is the most important thing government can do is protect the tender fannies of the rich and powerful,” Warren said. “Let’s be clear about this — the game is rigged and Mitch McConnell wants to keep it rigged.”
McConnell also is bringing in some names in the final days. Singer Lee Greenwood, best known for his song “God Bless the USA,” accompanied the GOP leader as he made a final tour of some of the more rural parts of the state. On Wednesday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is considering staging his own presidential run in 2016, met up with McConnell in Louisville.
Jindal, the featured speaker at what was dubbed the Restore America Rally, offered voters a simple message – re-elect McConnell to create a Republican majority in the upper chamber that will shove Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, aside.
Neither candidate offered much on the issue of the day but on Tuesday McConnell once again tried to explain his position on the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
McConnell has consistently said he hopes to dispose of the healthcare reform measure “root and branch” but he’s had a hard time explaining what he would do to replace it – more than 500,000 Kentuckians are newly eligible for Medicaid under the measure and they stand to lose their insurance coverage if the law is repealed.
During an appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News Tuesday, McConnell made it clear that repealing the measure is “at the top of my list.” But he went on to say GOP attempts to kill Obamacare are unlikely to succeed, meaning those benefitting from expanded Medicaid coverage are safe.
“But remember who’s in the White House for two more years,” McConnell said. “Obviously he’s not going to sign a full repeal. But there are pieces of it that are extremely unpopular with the American public that the Senate ought to have a chance to vote on — repealing the medical device tax, trying to restore the 40-hour work week, voting on whether or not we should continue the individual mandate, which people hate, detest, and despise.”
Cavuto then asked whether repealing aspects like the medical device tax was possible, even if totally “dismantling” the law was not.
McConnell said it will take 60 votes to avoid a filibuster on any repeal attempt – a goal Republicans are unlikely to attain.
“And it would take a presidential signature, and no one thinks we’re going to get that,” McConnell said. “So the question is: What can you do about it? Well, I’d like to put the Senate Democrats in a position of voting on the most unpopular parts of this law, and see if we can put it on the president’s desk and make him take real ownership of this highly destructive Obamacare, which has done so much damage to the country.”
While McConnell was discussing Obamacare, the Grimes campaign was attempting to open a new line of attack – Social Security privatization.
During a presentation last week, McConnell reminded voters that he supported the efforts by former President George W. Bush to privatize the national retirement system but he was unable to attract the support of Democrats.
Privatization is decidedly unpopular in Kentucky. The Senate Majority PAC swooped in swiftly with a hard-hitting ad that blasted the McConnell position – an ad that the McConnell campaign has tried to convince local television stations to quit running.
McConnell subsequently roiled the waters a bit. Asked if he intended to pursue Social Security privatization as majority leader, he responded, “I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance.” But later, during an interview with WBKO-TV in Bowling Green, Ky., McConnell said, “That’s just one of the many fictions the Grimes campaign has been spinning. Obviously, preserving and protecting Social Security is the most important thing any of us can do.”
“McConnell’s record shows privatizing Social Security will be a top priority if re-elected and he needs to come clean with the voters of Kentucky regarding his true belief that ‘saving’ Social Security is achieved by privatizing it,” said Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst.