Tags: Mitch McConnell

FreedomWorks PAC Pledges Support to Bevin Over McConnell


In other Kentucky Senate-race news, FreedomWorks PAC endorsed Matt Bevin, GOP challenger to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

“Now more than ever, we need strong fiscal conservatives who will fight to cut spending on the front lines, not the sidelines. Matt Bevin is a great upgrade for Kentuckians who are serious about transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability in government,” said FreedomWorks PAC president Matt Kibbe.

“FreedomWorks is an incredible grassroots organization with tens of thousands of Kentucky members. I am humbled and honored to receive their support. Voters here are seeing and feeling first hand the damage that Mitch McConnell’s 30 years of big government polices have had on our great Commonwealth. As a result, they are flocking to join forces with our campaign. This is a big endorsement and will accelerate our growing grassroots momentum. I am truly grateful for this vote of confidence,” said Matt Bevin.

There have been some cycles where FreedomWorks PAC has been very active, and spent a lot . . . 

The steep drop-off from the 2010 to 2012 cycle reflects in part the fact that FreedomWorks started supporting candidates through a new SuperPAC, FreedomWorks for America, formed in July 2011.

Looking back on that 2010 cycle, FreedomWorks PAC helped support some of the biggest conservative wins of the cycle, including Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky. But the PAC’s support wasn’t always a guarantee of victory in November. Their top four races, in terms of amount of money spent, were in West Virginia for John Raese’s Senate bid, in California for Carly Fiorina’s Senate bid, in Utah for Morgan Philpot’s House bid, and in Arizona for Ruth McClung’s House bid. None of those candidates won in November.

Tags: Mitch McConnell , Matt Bevin

‘Of course I’m sure. I read it in Newsweek.’


Oh, Newsweek.

They meant former governor Bob McDonnell, not Senator Mitch McConnell. They have since deleted the Tweet

Everybody makes mistakes. But it’s a little more embarrassing when your slogan for your Twitter account is “get smarter, faster” and you illustrate your Twitter feed with a little word balloon saying “Of course I’m sure. I read it in Newsweek.”

Don’t be so sure!

Tags: Something Lighter , Bob McDonnell , Mitch McConnell

A Case for McConnell, Made in a Whisper


Senator Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign released its first major television ads of the year, entitled “Cares” and “Strong Voice.”

The campaign characterizes the ads as “a significant, six-figure buy will air statewide on Kentucky television.” Both ads feature Robert Pierce, a Kentuckian who suffered from throat cancer after unknowingly being exposed to high levels of radiation while working at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. In the ads, Mr. Pierce describes the profound impact Senator McConnell has made on his life, and the lives of many other Kentuckians, saying, “He knocked down walls for us. He helped save people’s lives.”

“Mitch McConnell gives a voice to Kentucky’s working families. I know first-hand — he cares,” says Pierce. “Mitch gets results for Kentucky that no one else can. That’s why I would like to raise my voice. Because we are represented by a man who has fought hard for us — and always will.”

What makes the ad stand out from so many other political ads is Pierce, telling his tale in a whisper:

UPDATE: The campaign of Alison Lundergan Grimes is less impressed, declaring,

Today, McConnell launched a ‘new’ ad that is nearly identical to the same TV ad he ran in 2008, even using the same worker, Robert Pierce. McConnell uses this tactic for political gain, hiding the real story of his inaction on behalf of the health and safety of workers in Paducah.

The campaign points to this piece in the Huffington Post, critical of McConnell and his legislative legacy, painting the senator as far too cozy with the U.S. government’s uranium-enrichment plant.

McConnell’s 2008 ad can be found here; Pierce indeed appears, but he is only one of several workers featured in that ad.

Tags: Mitch McConnell

Get Ready for a Rough-and-Tumble GOP Primary in Kentucky


Moments before Lousiville businesman Matt Bevin announced he was running for Senate in Kentucky, challenging incumbent Mitch McConnell, McConnell’s press team spotlights a Louisville Tea Party board member resigning from his post in a show of support for McConnell: “Scott Reed was a founding board member of the Louisville Tea Party in 2008 yet resigned from his post as Vice-President to run for state representative in 2012.  Reed said he resigned from his current board post about one month ago when Louisville Tea Party President Sarah Durand decided to back Bevin’s Republican Primary campaign and become Bevin’s spokeswoman.”

Katrina Trinko previewed the Bevin-McConnell fight; expect McConnell to go after Bevin’s business record and contend he took a bailout from the state of Connecticut; Bevin will argue McConnell has forgotten his conservative roots and become the face of Republican compromise in Washington.


Tags: Mitch McConnell , Matt Bevin , Kentucky

She’s the Democrats’ Great Hope in Kentucky? Her?


Huge Jolt before the Independence Day holiday begins: A key provision of Obamacare is delayed; Obama fiddles as Egypt (and the rest of the Middle East) burns, and then these developments in Kentucky . . . 

Wait, This Is the Democrats’ Great Hope in Kentucky? Her?

Meet Alison Grimes, the woman Democrats are thrilled to have running against Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky:

Even Alison Lundergan Grimes didn’t know what she would announce to the world late Monday afternoon when she arrived at the building she used as the headquarters for her campaign in 2011. Or, at least, she didn’t let on to the more than 100 supporters she called there that she had made a decision about running for the U.S. Senate until the very end of the meeting.

Interviews with more than a half-dozen people who attended the meeting — several of whom asked not to be quoted — yielded descriptions of Grimes’s approach to the announcement as “unorthodox,” “unprecedented,” “fascinating” and, at times, “surreal.”

Instead of telling supporters whether she was running for Senate, Grimes opened it up for them to tell her what they thought. After the first several people spoke, Grimes began calling on others by name to give their takes. After nearly an hour, a consensus emerged: she should run for the party’s nomination to challenge U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.

She’ll let you know what she’s decided regarding one of the most important decisions in her life . . . after her Committee of 100 gets back to her.

Of course, this sort of surprise, no-decision-until-the-Committee-of-100-speaks approach does have its, er, challenges:

On Tuesday, two very basic, stripped-down websites, and emerged without links to contribute money. It is not yet clear whether Grimes’s campaign controls those sites.

“Basic, stripped down”? That’s being generous. Let me put it this way: When you look like these . . . 

 . . . then no, neither she nor any allied organization owns those URLs, and the person who does is hoping to get a big check for them.

As for yesterday’s announcement, well . . . apparently it wasn’t the real campaign roll-out. That comes later.

The Grimes campaign says Monday’s announcement was not a rollout.

“Yesterday Alison was simply announcing her intentions to run. I’m certain when we do our rollout, you will see that this will be a top tier campaign and we will have the most professional organization in the state,” responded Hurst.


There’s a bizarre music video mocking Grimes from Mitch McConnell’s team. If you want to see her real announcement — before an “Allison Grimes for Secretary of State” banner — you can find it here.

“Boy, is her delivery wooden.” — Pinocchio.

Anyway, the primary argument from optimistic Democrats is that even though they haven’t won a U.S. Senate race in Kentucky since 1992, and even though Obama is phenomenally unpopular there, and even though Mitch McConnell is going to have roughly a bazillion dollars in his campaign account, and even though McConnell’s campaign team has elbows so sharp, they use them to remove staples, and even though turnout will likely be lower and more GOP-friendly in a midterm year, and even though a better Democratic candidate couldn’t beat newcomer Rand Paul in an open seat Senate race four years ago, and . . . er, wait, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, Democrats think they have a solid shot because McConnell’s poll numbers are pretty mediocre.

Of course, there’s this independent state house candidate in Kentucky who’s touting praise of himself from McConnell.

The independent campaign of John-Mark Hack in Central Kentucky’s special state House election came under fire Sunday for sending mailers with flattering comments about Hack by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and several prominent Democrats.

Republicans and Democrats associated with Hack’s opponents accused him of misleading voters by implying he had endorsements he had not received.

Anyway, if McConnell is this toxically unpopular incumbent, as Democrats believe . . . why does this independent candidate think it helps his odds to remind voters that McConnell likes him?

But credit where it’s due; Grimes can wear a purple hat roughly the size of a minivan way better than McConnell can:

The Joker called. He wants his tablecloth back.

Tags: Alison Lundergan Grimes , Mitch McConnell

Meet Alison Grimes’ Top Donors


Progressive Democrats are elated that Alison Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, will run against Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in 2014.

I wonder if they realize that the top donors to her 2011 secretary of state bid include the Kentucky Bankers Association, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and the Steptoe & Johnson lobbying firm . . . a firm whose clients include the American Gas Association, the Institute of International Bankers, ChemTex International, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, Peabody Energy (the largest private-sector coal company in the world) and shale-gas developers.

Eh, they’ve got a narrative that makes them feel good, so I guess they’ll probably stick to it. I suppose her donations from progressives’ least-favorite companies and industries is somehow . . . magically not compromising or something.

UPDATE: The University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato is skeptical that Grimes will grab the momentum: “Crystal Ball holds firm on Likely R rating. McConnell has enormous advantages in strongly anti-Obama Kentucky. Low turnout midterm, too.”

Tags: Alison Grimes , Mitch McConnell

Those Oh-So-Beatable Republicans With No Declared Rivals



The predictable buzz from the state Democratic Party convention was, “Watch out, Gov. Scott Walker. We’re coming for you next year!”

But when the question became exactly who Democrats will field to stop Walker from winning a second term in November 2014, the answer was: “We’ll get back to you . . .”

The argument for Walker’s alleged supreme vulnerability in a 2014 election sounds a lot like the one for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Both states have plenty of Democrats who have run for statewide office, won races for statewide office, or mentioned interest in running for some other statewide office in the future. But for some strange reason, no Democrat has decided to run against the guy they insist is so beatable . . .

Tags: Scott Walker , Mitch McConnell

Talking McConnell, Chafee on ‘The Lead’


As seen over in the Corner, here’s my appearance on “The Lead” with Jake Tapper. My unused line: Yesterday, Republicans across the country reacted in stunned shock to the news out of Rhode Island that Governor Lincoln Chafee switched parties . . . everyone was stunned to learn that he wasn’t already a Democrat.

Tags: Lincoln Chaffee , Mitch McConnell

Kentucky Democrats: Hey, Doesn’t Anyone Want to Run Against Mitch?


Remember how we keep hearing how vulnerable Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is in 2014? The Louisville Courier Journal notices that for some reason, none of Kentucky’s big-name Democrats seem all that eager to run against him:

Attorney General Jack Conway. Former state Auditor Crit Luallen and her successor, Adam Edelen. Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson and former Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo.

All are Democrats considering a run for governor in 2015. And not one is interested in running instead to unseat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell next year.

That list doesn’t include Hollywood star Ashley Judd.

At this point, the Democrats’ hopes are on Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, but she hasn’t announced a bid; the state’s lone Democratic congressman is publicly stating she has to make her decision known soon:

Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth says Grimes needs to let whatever those plans are known before the summer or risk hurting the party.

“I do think that it is important that Alison Grimes immediately decide whether she’s running or not because there are a number of people sitting on the sidelines who would be interested I think in making a race who are waiting to find out what she does. And for her to keep prolonging this as she said possibly until the late summer I think is a disservice to the party,” he says.

Tags: Mitch McConnell , Alison Lundergan Grimes , John Yarmuth

Might Want to Check Kentucky Eavesdropping Law, Fellas.


Apparently they really meant this:

Much more important than, say, obeying Kentucky law. You see, Kentucky requires at least one party in a conversation to consent to the recording of the conversation.

“Unless otherwise provided by law, the authorized maximum terms of imprisonment for a Class D felony is not less than one (1) year nor more than five (5) years.”

A local Democrat has told the press that the organization bragged about that Class D felony.

secret recording of a campaign strategy session between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his advisors was taped by leaders of the Progress Kentucky super PAC, says a longtime local Democratic operative.

Mother Jones Magazine released the tape this week. The meeting itself took place on Feb. 2.

Jacob Conway, who is on the executive committee of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, says that day, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, who founded and volunteered for Progress Kentucky, respectively, bragged to him about how they recorded the meeting.

I suppose the group could always try to distract us by saying something racist about McConnell’s wife again.

UPDATE: The tapers might be in the clear; it may come down to whether the recording device was in the room or outside of it.

In-person conversations: It is a felony to overhear or record, through use of an electronic or mechanical device, an oral communication without the consent of at least one party to that communication. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 526.020. According to the commentary included with the statute when it was adopted in 1974, a conversation which is loud enough to be heard through the wall or through the heating system without the use of any device is not meant to be protected by the statute, since a person who desires privacy can take the steps necessary to ensure that his conversation cannot be overheard by the ordinary ear. See 1974 Kentucky Crime Commission/Legislative Research Commission Commentary to 1974 c 406, § 227.

From the report above:

Morrison and Reilly did not attend the open house, but they told Conway they arrived later and were able to hear the meeting from the hallway.

Other sources have corroborated this series of events to WFPL. The meeting room door is next to the elevators on that floor. McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton has told multiple media outlets the door was shut and locked on Feb. 2. But the door has a vent at the bottom and a large gap underneath.

Tags: Kentucky , Mitch McConnell

Mother Jones Bugs a Lot of People.


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Mother Jones Bugs a Lot of People.

Don’t read the Morning Jolt out loud, because for all we know, David Corn and Mother Jones could be listening to us right now.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused opponents Tuesday of bugging his headquarters and asked for an FBI investigation after a recording from an internal campaign meeting surfaced in a magazine report.

The 12-minute audiotape released by Mother Jones magazine reveals McConnell and his campaign staff at a Feb. 2 meeting lampooning actress Ashley Judd — then a potential Senate candidate — and comparing her to “a haystack of needles” because of her potential political liabilities. Judd has since decided not to run.

“We’ve always said the left will stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Nixonian tactics to bug campaign headquarters is above and beyond,” campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement.

An FBI spokesman confirmed that the agency was investigating the incident following a report filed by McConnell’s office.

First of all, I had better audio quality holding up my cassette recorder to our home stereo to make mix tapes. In fact, I’m pretty sure Billy Joel is singing in the background.

I mean, right there on the tape, you can hear McConnell make really incriminating, scandalous statements, like, “Mmmrrrhg mmm rhgmmm rghmmm brmmm crm” and “mmmrgh hrrgnm mrrgh hrgmm rghghgrmm.”

David Corn posted this; he and Mother Jones posted the secretly-recorded video of Mitt Romney making his “47 percent” comment. Boy, he sure got past his Bush-era qualms about secret wiretapping, huh? Jeff Dunitz lays out Corn’s shock and horror at the violation of privacy presented by the government attempting to listen in on the conversations of terrorists… privacy that is apparently utterly irrelevant if you’re just some lawmaker that Mother Jones opposes speaking in a private meeting. Perhaps Corn resents the competition from the National Security Agency, or maybe he’s just jealous that they have better equipment. 

Of course, Mother Jones was particularly shocked and horrified that some unidentified presenter declared about Ashley Judd:

“She is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it’s been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.”

I’m sorry, is the argument from the shocked-and-horrified Mother Jones crowd that if a candidate had a mental breakdown, that was none of the electorate’s business?

Obvious joke: “Of course, it’s Congress, perhaps no one would notice.” Hey, a candidate’s mental illness never affects their ability to perform their duties, right? Just ask former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Congressman David Wu, do you have any thoughts on this?


Thank you, Congressman.

Kevin Williamson writes, “One sympathizes with people who suffer from mental illness. If you have ever been around somebody with psychological problems of the sort that necessitate hospitalization, you appreciate what a grim business that is. And if you breathe oxygen and possess a dozen or more functioning neurons, you also know that if Sarah Palin had spent a month and a half in a mental hospital, Mother Jones — which took a notably indulgent attitude toward Trig trutherism — would have led the chorus of jeers rather than write oh-so-sensitive headlines about the awfulness of using somebody’s mental health as “political ammo.” And as for the legitimacy of using somebody’s religious beliefs as a campaign issue, maybe we should ask Rick Santorum about that.”

But Judd isn’t running, so her mental health history and nuttier statements are all moot. Let’s hope she has a long, happy, and mentally healthy life, and that she and Morgan Freeman will finally uncover the conspiracy.

Our Dan Foster wonders what Mother Jones expected to hear at a strategy session, and puts the shoe on the other foot.

Where did Mother Jones get the tape? They’ll only say, “we were recently provided with the tape by a source who wishes to remain anonymous. We published the article on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness. We were not involved in the making of the tape, but it is our understanding that the tape was not the product of any kind of bugging operation.”

My guess is that it was delivered to them by a woman named Lucy Ramirez,  who directed Bill Burkett to get them from a mysterious unidentified man at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Tags: Ashley Judd , David Wu , Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell Still Missing a Serious Primary Challenger, Too


While I’m depressing grassroots conservatives because there’s no serious, well-funded challenge to South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham on the horizon, I might as well really bum them out by pointing out that there’s not much action going on in Kentucky, either.

Senator Mitch McConnell’s team recently announced that 64 out of the 68 Republicans in the state legislature have endorsed his reelection.

Perhaps more significantly, Senator Rand Paul is discouraging a tea-party challenge:

Sen. Rand Paul is discouraging a tea party challenge to McConnell’s reelection campaign. “No one has asked me about running, I have not had any conversation with anybody running on the Republican side,” Paul told WHAS11’s Joe Arnold, “and so I think it’s unlikely that there will be a Republican challenger.”

“And you’re right, I am supporting Senator McConnell,” Paul continued.

Two little-known figures have filed papers to run against McConnell as a Republican. One is Roger Thoney, who ran for the U.S. House and lieutenant governor in 2000, 2002, and 2003; he received 4,784 votes in his 2002 House bid, or 21 percent. The other is Joshua Pike Mather, a sculptor.

There are other names being mentioned as possibilities, but no one has pulled the trigger yet. David Adams, a tea-party activist who worked with Paul’s 2010 bid, said on MSNBC he’s not running himself, but that he’s still looking for a candidate. John Kemper, a spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party, said in late March he’s gauging support; he received more than 349,000 votes as the GOP candidate for state auditor in 2011. Matt Bevin, a Louisville businessman, was also mentioned as a possible candidate, although the talk has died down a bit in recent days.

As our Katrina Trinko noted, by reaching out to various Republican groups, McConnell “has thus far successfully prevented any challengers from emerging.” Whoever jumps in will have to go up against McConnell, all of the traditional advantages of incumbency, and about $7.3 million in cash on hand right now.

Sure, sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle, and a Ron Johnson type comes out of nowhere, and the filing deadline isn’t until January 2014. But you have to figure that almost every current conservative Republican lawmaker in Kentucky has looked at McConnell and concluded that he’s not bad enough to replace, or that a bid to beat him in the Senate primary wouldn’t succeed.

Tags: Mitch McConnell , Rand Paul

Democrats’ Second Thoughts About Ashley Judd?


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Is Judd-gment Day Coming this Spring?

So, actress Ashley Judd is preparing to run for Senate . . . or perhaps not.

Actress Ashley Judd, who has reportedly been exploring a Senate run since last December, will announce her candidacy in the spring, MSNBC’s Howard Fineman reported Sunday. Her candidacy would pit her against Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

The 44-year-old star of “Double Jeopardy” also has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University and has been a women’s rights activist for years. She had met with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to talk about women running for office more than a year ago, Fineman reported.

In a statement to The Huffington Post, Judd denied that she was planning on making announcements any time soon.

“I am not sure who is saying this stuff, but it is not I!” Judd said to the website. “I’d prefer as a fan of your journalism that you stay accurate and credible. We told everyone who called us yesterday these stories are fabrications.”

Are Washington Democrats suddenly nervous about Ashley Judd as their standard-bearer? A Louisville weekly is reporting that’s exactly the case:

LEO Weekly has learned from multiple Democratic sources that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is now applying the brakes to their once all-in support of Ashley Judd as the challenger of choice against Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014. While not ready to abandon Judd, they are now taking a serious second look at recruiting Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The change of heart came after a recent poll the DSCC conducted, but not because it showed Judd was incapable of competing with McConnell, rather that Grimes performed better than Judd and gave Democrats the best chance at victory.

As late as last week, the wheels were already very much in motion at the DSCC in planning a Judd Senate candidacy. While those plans have not been scrapped, there is definitely a re-evaluation happening. Our sources tell LEO that while the DSCC felt that Judd could compete with McConnell, one of Judd’s strongest assets would be her ability to raise money on par with McConnell and tie up Republican campaign spending (both McConnell’s and the NRSC’s) in that race. However, their recent polling suggests the 2014 race is very much winnable, with McConnell so vulnerable that Democrats need to make their priority finding the candidate with the best chance of winning.

For what it’s worth, Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Tweeted, “In my time with the DSCC, I think 85 percent of all recruitment theories and stories have been wrong. It’ll make for a good story when I’m done next November.”

A bit of DSCC caution makes sense, no? Kentucky Democrats are a different breed. With one interruption — Ernie Fletcher from 2003 to 2007 — Democrats have occupied the governor’s mansion since 1971. But in the senatorial races, where national issues are more likely to predominate the campaigns, Republicans have won every race since 1992. Right now, five of the six U.S. House members from the state are Republicans. So you would think Democrats would want someone who could run the “I’m nothing like Obama” type campaign that works for Democrats in places like West Virginia and Utah. One look at the American Crossroads web ad knocking Judd and you know you’re dealing with a potential candidate who will be extremely popular with Democrats outside of Kentucky . . . but inside the state, perhaps not so much.

Tags: Ashley Judd , Mitch McConnell

American Crossroads Salutes Ashley Judd


American Crossroads engages in a bit of “battlespace preparation” by running a faux ad saluting actress Ashley Judd, who’s rumored to be considering a bid for Senate in Kentucky . . . even though she currently lives in Tennessee.

American Crossroads says the ad is “backed by $10,000 in paid digital advertising, starting today and running two weeks in Kentucky.”

Tags: American Crossroads , Ashley Judd , Kentucky , Mitch McConnell

Do You Like McConnell? Well, Compared to Whom?


Earlier this month, I scoffed a bit at web ads being run against Senator Mitch McConnell, declaring,

The high-profile grumbling about Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell — seen in a new ad campaign from ForAmerica, a non-profit 501(c)4 run by Brent Bozell — is a lot like the much-discussed, little-impact uprising against John Boehner as speaker of the House. In both cases, the odds of replacing the current Republican leadership would be exponentially more likely if there were a named alternative.

The issue of a lack of named alternative arises again, as the Louisville Courier-Journal writes a breathless story about a poll they commissioned, finding that only 17 percent of registered voters will vote for McConnell no matter who runs against him, 34 percent will vote against McConnell, and for 44 percent, “it depends who is running.”

Well, gee, it kind of matters who the other candidate is, doesn’t it?

The new result suggests there are conservatives out there who might prefer an alternative if they had some other conservative alternative in the primary (13 percent of self-identified conservatives say they are “definitely” voting against McConnell). Of course, there are some liberals out there who will prefer the Democratic alternative (although only 56 percent of self-identified liberals say they’re definitely voting against McConnell!).

The problem is that the more conservative folks and the Democrats who are currently McConnell foes have diametrically opposed notions of what a “better alternative” is. If McConnell wins his primary, most of those conservatives will prefer him to the more liberal alternative and “come home”; if he doesn’t win his primary, the anti-McConnell animus in the electorate is moot.

The poll is by SurveyUSA . . . which found McConnell’s approval rating at 50 percent at the end of October.

Considering that the paper was willing to commission the poll, one wishes they had bothered polling some of the potential rivals to McConnell, in both a GOP primary and a statewide race.

In fact, the early polling of a hypothetical McConnell–Ashley Judd race would have made for a dramatic story. I wonder why the Courier-Journal chose not to poll on that matchup . . . or whether they did and chose not to publicize the results.

Tags: Erskine Bowles , Kentucky , Mitch McConnell

The New GOP Strategy: Make the Senate Go First


From the final Morning Jolt of the week:


Well, this is nice; Common Cause is irked at Harry Reid for not destroying the Republicans’ ability to filibuster legislation. And if they’re complaining, it probably means Republicans got a good deal:

Today’s announced “compromise” on Senate filibuster reform is in fact a capitulation by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who now has missed two excellent opportunities to restore the Senate to its proper role as a working legislative body, Common Cause said.

“My friend Harry Reid, the senator from Searchlight, NV, has gone missing in the fight for filibuster reform,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The deal he and Sen. McConnell have struck allows individual senators to continue blocking debate and action by the entire body and to do so without explaining themselves to their colleagues or the American people. This is not the Senate of debate and deliberation our founders envisioned.”

The Huffington Post’s coverage makes it clear: Liberals believe Harry Reid sold them out:

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands. The language of the deal was obtained by HuffPost and can be read here and here.

Ed Morrissey summarized the impact at Hot Air:

If I had to guess, I’d say that the prospect of living under any other rules in the minority after 2014 prompted some moderate Democrats to slow down the “reform” train, as well as the prospect of setting a 51-vote precedent for rules changes and placing it in Republican hands in 2015. Instead of dictating an end to the filibuster, Reid ended up settling for a compromise that refines it, but essentially leaves it in the hands of the minority.

It looks as though McConnell got his wish in reforming the amendment process, too. The first section gives the right to the minority to offer amendments in rotation with the majority, which means Reid can no longer “fill the tree” by introducing enough amendments to shut out Republicans, although the schedule becomes constricted significantly if cloture is invoked for both the majority and minority.

This is a smart play for both Democrats and Republicans in trying to repair the reputation of the upper chamber. Reid, however, will come out looking like the big loser not so much for what he gave up, but for what he promised and then failed to deliver.

This may end up being a very big deal, as it appears that Speaker Boehner is trying a smarter strategy, trying to make Harry Reid the face of the opposition rather than President Obama and his bully pulpit.

The House GOP’s maneuver on the debt ceiling? We’ll give a three-month extension, in exchange for the Senate finally passing a budget — and in the process, putting every Democrat on record on just how much in tax increases would be necessary to pay for the spending they envision. You can picture the ads now: “As the national debt passed $16 trillion, Senator So-and-so voted to increase spending by another $1 trillion a year . . .” Translation, the Senate goes first, steps into the muck of unpopular budget decisions, and then then the House will act.

(For those screaming “but spending has to originate in the House!” keep in mind that this is not an appropriations bill but an authorization bill/plan; it doesn’t actually transfer money but instead just lays out a detailed proposal of the government’s financial goals and priorities.)

It’s the same deal on the president’s gun-control proposals: “If the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that.” Translation, if NRA-friendly Harry Reid has something that he wants to make Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Max Baucus of Montana, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia (not running for reelection) and Joe Manchin of West Virginia vote on . . . that’s fine.

Tags: Filibuster , Harry Reid , John Boehner , Mitch McConnell

‘Strip-Mining Opponent Ashley Judd . . .’


You knew Ashley Judd was considering running for Senate in Kentucky in 2014.

Actress and activist Ashley Judd said Saturday she is “taking a close look” at running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the 2014 race.

Judd would not say whether she had decided to mount a campaign, but her brief comments in an interview with The Courier-Journal and Politico were the strongest indication yet that she may be a serious candidate.

“The people of Kentucky need a fighter,” Judd said as she walked through a Washington hotel lobby on her way to the Kentucky Society of Washington’s Bluegrass Ball. “And certainly going back 10 generations, I’ve got some fighters from those hills in my family.”

I’m intrigued by the way the Courier-Journal environmental columnist, James Bruggers, labels Judd on first reference:

Strip mining opponent Ashley Judd finally spoke up on the speculation she’s helped foster regarding a possible Senate run against Mitch McConnell.

He goes on to point out:

Since I’ve been in the state, anyway, and that is about 13 years, I cannot think of one candidate who successfully ran for a statewide audience who hasn’t, essentially, pledged allegiance to the coal industry and supported surfacing mining in the mountains.

Tags: Ashley Judd , Mitch McConnell

To Oppose McConnell, Find an Alternative First


The high-profile grumbling about Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell — seen in a new ad campaign from ForAmerica, a non-profit 501(c)4 run by Brent Bozell — is a lot like the much-discussed, little-impact uprising against John Boehner as speaker of the House. In both cases, the odds of replacing the current Republican leadership would be exponentially more likely if there were a named alternative.

Here’s the announcement of the web advertising against McConnell:

ForAmerica Chairman L. Brent Bozell III today announced the 3 million strong social media organization is launching the first ad of the 2014 election cycle against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his capitulation to President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in fiscal cliff negotiations. The ad will run in the Senator’s home state of Kentucky and in Washington, DC on websites including the Drudge Report,, and the Daily Caller.

“Conservatives have had it with the Republican Party. The party that was once for freedom and limited government no longer exists. We now have two tax and spend parties in Washington,” said Bozell. “Senator McConnell often talks a tough game and sells himself as a conservative, but his actions speak louder than his words. His role as President Obama’s bag man in the latest fiscal cliff disaster clearly demonstrates that Senator McConnell is more interested in the art of the bad deal rather than standing up and fighting for conservative principles. It is time for conservatives to stand up to politicians in both parties who talk conservative but govern as liberals,” Bozell concluded.

The group wants to sign a petition “to let McConnell and congressional Republicans know conservatives are watching and will hold accountable those who go against the principles they claim to support.”

Okay, hold them accountable how?

Support a primary challenger? Okay, but right now there are no challengers stepping forward, and even if a credible one does, that primary isn’t until May 2014. A lot can change, but in December, only 35 percent of likely Kentucky GOP primary voters said they preferred “someone more conservative” to McConnell.

Conservatives can prefer another senator to be minority leader, but they would need A) a candidate and B) a majority of the Republicans in the Senate to agree a leadership change is needed. In fact, without A, B is moot.

Do you like McConnell? Well, compared to what other Senate Republican? (And has there ever been a less conservative thought than, ‘Well, anyone must be better’?”)

The departure of Jim DeMint with four more years left in his term suggested that conservative senators foresaw a steep uphill climb for at least the next two years and probably the next four. Anyone who wants to see McConnell replaced needs to find a replacement, and that replacement can’t be contemplating a presidential bid simultaneously (see Bob Dole in 1996).

Recent cycles brought a group of senators who might be called the Tea Party caucus — a group of relatively young, principled conservatives with bright futures: Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Ted Cruz of Texas. But for now, none of those senators have publicly expressed interest in the herding-cats-like role of leading the caucus.

UPDATE: By the way, by the measurement of the “Freedom Meter,” Mitch McConnell scores an average of 95 percent out of a possible 100.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Bozell, executive director of ForAmerica, sends along a statement to NRO:

The Fiscal Cliff vote will soon be integrated into the Freedom Meter but, as everyone knows, it only takes a few bad test scores to screw up a decent grade. And the deal Senator McConnell cut with liberals is certainly a doozy. Going forward, we hope that Senator McConnell stops cutting bad deals with liberal Democrats behind closed doors and stands up for fiscal discipline and economic growth; if he does so then we will enthusiastically support him.

Tags: Mitch McConnell

Will Kentucky Face Judd-gment Day?


The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt features a look at Dick Armey’s sudden departure from FreedomWorks, some dire pizza news, and then this bit of campaign news . . .

Judd-gment Day

By 2030, our political system will just be dueling celebrities:

Ashley Judd vs. Mitch McConnell?

It might not be as far-fetched as you think.

The Hollywood movie star and eighth-generation Kentuckian is seriously exploring a 2014 run for the Senate to take on the powerful Republican leader, four people familiar with the matter tell POLITICO. In recent weeks, Judd has spoken with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) about the possibility of a run, has discussed a potential bid with a Democratic pollster and has begun to conduct opposition research on herself to see where she’s most vulnerable in the Bluegrass State, sources say.

Whether Judd jumps into the race remains far from certain. She’s reportedly also weighing whether to wait until 2016 to instead take on freshman Sen. Rand Paul, sources say.

But if Judd does become a candidate, she would be the biggest celebrity to run for the Senate since Al Franken’s successful 2008 bid for the Minnesota seat. And her entrance would add a level of star power to a race that was already poised to be the highest-profile in the country with the Senate Republican leader up for a sixth term in 2014. “She is doing all the things that a serious candidate exploring a race should do,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) told POLITICO after speaking with her. “I think there are a lot of people, and I was one of them, who wanted to let her know that her candidacy would be an exciting prospect for us. That’s what I wanted her to know. A lot of the labor unions, they were telling me that too.”

So, I suppose we’ve well-established that anybody can be a U.S. Senator, but . . . aren’t you supposed to have done something in the realm of public policy before you get to be a senator? Even maybe a town council or something like that? To paraphrase Rep. Bobby Rush’s criticism of his Democratic primary challenger in 2000, “What’s she done? I mean . . . just what has she done?”

As the Politico article eventually notes, “Yet other Democrats are nervous about her prospective candidacy: She’d be pegged as a liberal, out of touch with conservative Kentucky; she has no experience running for office; and she now lives outside her home state.”

The best part of Ashley Judd’s Senate bid will be when she teams up with Morgan Freeman to uncover the conspiracy.

Jim Hoft reminds us, “Judd is a big anti-gun lib. She cut ads for some wackadoodle leftist group against Sarah Palin in 2008.”

Doug Powers: “Hopefully Judd waits until 2016, because I would pay to watch Rand Paul dismantle her in a debate. Presumably Judd would poll poorly among the Kentucky coal miner demographic.”

Doug Adams, NBC producer, warns “Democrats pining for Ashley Judd should remember this: 1) she lives in Tennessee 2) McConnell is tenacious 3) celebs make lousy candidates.”

“So what?” said former New York Senator Hillary Clinton to the first.

“So what?” said Rep. Patrick Murphy, fresh off defeating Allen West, to the second.

“So what?” said Senator Al Franken to the third.

Tags: Ashley Judd , Mitch McConnell

Americans: We Don’t Have Much Faith in Anybody Right Now


I know it will come as an enormous shock to you, but the Washington Post found that Americans don’t have much faith in any figure in Washington to resolve the debt-ceiling issue.

Democrats can find a bit of solace in that Obama rates the highest among the six figures, but even he’s “underwater,” with 49 percent having little or no confidence in him, and the two figures with the least amount of public confidence are Senate majority leader Harry Reid (57 percent say “not too confident” or “no confidence”) and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (61 percent).

Looking at the party breakdown, we’re left wondering, who are the 10 percent of self-identified Republicans who have faith in Pelosi here? And would anyone have expected Republicans to have more faith in Harry Reid than Barack Obama?

Tags: Barack Obama , Eric Cantor , Harry Reid , John Boehner , Mitch McConnell , Nancy Pelosi


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