Tags: Mitch McConnell

Democratic Senate Nominee Attacks Obama in New Ad


Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is attempting to unseat Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), released a radio ad attacking President Obama for the Environmental Protection Agency’s coal-industry regulations.

“Mr. President, Kentucky has lost one-third of our coal jobs in just the last three years,” Grimes says in the ad, per the Courier-Journal. “Now your EPA is targeting Kentucky coal with pie-in-the-sky regulations that are impossible to achieve.”

The apparent purpose of the radio spot is to assure conservative voters in the red state that Grimes won’t be a loyal foot soldier to Obama and Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) if she is elected.

The McConnell campaign countered by reminding Kentuckians that Grimes was a delegate for Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

“Her belated concern about the war on coal now that she’s a candidate, after helping to ensure it by backing Obama, is insulting and transparently political,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in response to the ad.

You can expect Grimes and McConnell to continue fighting about her ties to Obama. ”This is what the entire election is about: Either McConnell is going to successfully tie Grimes to Obama’s liberal policies and win, or he’ll fail at that and lose,” a Republican strategist said. “This is a microcosm of the entire election.” 

The sparring about Grimes’s ad comes on the same day that Reid blocked a McConnell bill that would delay the EPA’s regulation to cut carbon emissions at existing coal plants.

“The EPA’s proposed regulation on existing power plants is only going to add to the economic challenges facing Kentucky—especially in Eastern Kentucky, which is ‘Ground Zero’ for what’s happening to our coal industry,” said Bill Bissett, president of the KY Coal Association. “We believe these proposed regulations will not only cause Kentucky’s electricity rates to skyrocket, but it will also harm the reliability of our electricity supply across the United States. The Kentucky Coal Association fully supports and appreciates Senator McConnell’s Coal Country Protection Act, which will make the Obama Administration and the EPA face the truth of what this regulation is going to do to American families, the coal industry and U.S. electricity production.”

Tags: Kentucky , Mitch McConnell , Alison Lundergan Grimes , Alison Grimes

A Good Night for McConnell, a Disappointing One for the Clinton Family


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

How About [YAWN] Those Thrilling [YAWN] Primary Night Results?

It would be easy to say something snarky or derisive about Matt Bevin, jumping into a primary challenge against Mitch McConnell and largely failing to get any traction, winning only 35 percent to McConnell’s 60 percent. Yes, he made a bunch of missteps along the way. Yes, he was an imperfect-at-best messenger for an anti-TARP message. But he got in the arena, made his case, stood up for what he believed in, and took his lumps. That’s what America’s system of free elections is all about, and the country — and the conservative movement — will need more people willing to do that in the years to come. And as much as Tuesday night’s results must have disappointed Bevin and his supporters, it’s worth remembering that the McConnell campaign treated him like a serious threat — because he had the potential to be a serious threat.

The boss . . . doesn’t quite agree:

To no one’s surprise, Mitch McConnell won handily tonight, a testament to his sure-footedness in Kentucky politics and to the folly of the groups that invested so much in defeating him. Those groups ran a weak candidate with probably only a long-shot chance to win at best and ended up, in effect, making a large in-kind contribution to the Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign — largely because they were bent on pursuing a vendetta with deep roots in the Senate cloakroom, consequences be damned. I’m glad that, as Pat notes, the groups are now endorsing McConnell, but this was a primary challenge that started out dumb and ended up dumber.

Note that last night Grimes got . . . 76 percent up against a trio of no-names in the Democratic primary? Hmm. Nearly 100,000 Kentucky Democrats voted for one of the other guys.

In Georgia’s GOP Senate primary, David Purdue and Jack Kingston advanced to the runoff, as expected.

In Pennsylvania . . . maybe the Clinton endorsement isn’t so golden after all:

State Rep. Brendan Boyle won the Democratic nomination to succeed Rep. Allyson Schwartz in Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District Tuesday and is overwhelmingly favored to take over the Democratic-leaning district, after besting Clinton in-law and former Rep. Marjorie Margolies in the primary.

Quick point on Oregon, where we can expect the rest of the campaign to revolve around this:

An employee of the Democratic Party of Oregon was the first person to request the April 2013 police report of timber baron Andrew Miller accusing Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby of “stalking” him after a break-up.

For Republicans, there’s some delicious satisfaction of accurately accusing Democrats of snooping around in a woman’s personal life, and accusing them of a war on women.

But are those of us who don’t know Monica Wehby sure the voters shouldn’t think about this accusation? Maybe not enough to disqualify herself from the U.S. Senate, the august institution that includes Al Franken and used to include Ted Kennedy, Robert “Sheets” Byrd, Ben “Cornhusker Kickback” Nelson, Bob Torricelli . . . 

This is from her victory speech last night:

When I was going through the process of deciding to get into this race it was my son who first said, “Mom, why would you leave a job that you love, that you trained until you were 35 years old to do, where everybody loves you, to take a job where people say all kinds of mean things about you on the internet.”

And I told him about a brain-tumor patient of mine who had made a full recovery and came back to my office to give me a card that I treasure to this day. The card read, “If we’re not here to make life better for one another, then what’s the point?” Over the last several days, in the face of vicious, ugly, and hurtful attacks, I’ve thought a lot about both my son’s question and my patient’s words of wisdom. And now more than ever I take those words to heart. I am running for Senate because I want to help make life a little better for each other.

Look, Lord knows I’m not perfect. I am like countless other Oregonians. I’m a working mom who balances a career that I love with children that I adore and would do anything to protect. I try my best, but in my life I’ve made some mistakes. And when I do, I’m no different than any of you in that when I’ve fallen short, I have gotten up and tried to do better. I promise that as your Senator, I will do the same.

My message to the Democrats who are willing to shred my family for their own political gain is that people are tired of your dirty tricks. The best way to defeat a bully is to stand up to them, and that is exactly what we are going to do. Tonight, we are sending a message that this Senate race will not be decided by the ugly kind of politics that people in Oregon and across the country are sick of. That time is over.

I’m exactly the person capable of changing things. You see I’m not a career politician, but I am a doctor, a mom, and someone very familiar with my opponent’s playbook. As President of the Oregon Medical Association, I ran our state’s TORT reform campaign — that was my first experience with hate mail. In 2009 I put my professional reputation on the line by appearing in television ads that ran nationwide warning people about the dangers of Obamacare — that was when I had to change my home phone number. In 2011 I ran and was elected to the board of trustees at the American Medical Association as a conservative change agent, to try and move that organization in a more balanced direction.

I say this not just to give you a bit of my biography, but to let you know that I have a long history of standing up for what I believe in.

Game on, Oregon.

Tags: Mitch McConnell , Matt Bevin , Alison Lundergan Grimes , Monica Wehby

Looking Ahead to Tuesday’s Not-So-Thrilling Primary Battles


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Looking Ahead to Tuesday’s Not-So-Thrilling Primary Battles

Boy, hype it much, USA Today?

Perhaps they don’t mean this coming Tuesday.

As a campaign correspondent, I’m arguing against interest by telling you that Tuesday’s primaries probably aren’t going to be that surprising or earth-shattering, but . . . come on. I can’t lie to you.

USA Today writes, “Senate contests in Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky are critical to determining who will control the Senate next year.” Okay, sure. But Tuesday’s primaries aren’t what make them critical.

In Kentucky, here’s the last Bluegrass poll before the primary:

The poll found that 55 percent of likely GOP voters support McConnell, while 35 percent favor Bevin. Three other Republican candidates split 5 percent of the vote, with the remaining 5 percent undecided.

But the poll found that McConnell is in a statistical dead heat with a November showdown looming, with 43 percent favoring her and 42 percent backing McConnell, a five-term incumbent. McConnell would do slightly better in a head-to-head match-up with Grimes than Bevin would.

Cheer up, Bevin fans — that 20-percentage-point ;margin for McConnell is his smallest lead yet! But, er . . . it’s pretty tough to make up that much ground in the final days.

As for the general election, that one-point lead for Grimes is the first she’s enjoyed since February, and only the second poll showing her ahead since . . . December 2012. McConnell’s no slam-dunk, but his sharp-elbowed, well-funded campaign went to work making sure Matt Bevin never amounted to a serious primary threat, and it appears to be on the verge of success. Let’s just see what happens when all of that advertising, organizing and volunteer firepower gets concentrated on his Democratic opponent.

Moving farther south, USA Today notes, “In Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton will clinch their respective nominations in a state considered one of the GOP’s best chances for a pickup because of the conservative lean of the state.” So again, there’s nothing dramatic or meaningful about Tuesday’s primary.

That race currently features a weird split in the polls. Three of the last six polls say incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor is doing fine — up 10 or 11 points. But the other three point to a close race — Pryor by 1, Cotton by 3, Pryor by 3. Undoubtedly, Cotton’s going to need to kick it up a notch in his television advertising — and most of his ads have been pretty darn good!


In Georgia, a crowded seven-way Senate primary will be whittled to two for a July 22 runoff as no candidate is likely to earn the 50% necessary to clinch the nomination. The eventual winner will face Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, who Democrats have touted as their best 2014 recruit.

The runoff will probably go to David Purdue (former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General) and Representative Jack Kingston. (Karen Handel has a shot to make the runoff, but not a great one.) Purdue polled well against Nunn until very recently. This is Georgia, where Democrats last won a statewide race in 1998. Democrats are getting their hopes up about Nunn’s ability to run on her father’s reputation, but notice this little wrinkle:

Under Georgia law, any race in which no candidate clears 50 percent on Nov. 4 heads to a runoff between the top two candidates. And thanks to a court ruling delaying any federal runoffs so that overseas voters have sufficient time to cast their ballots, there will actually be two separate runoffs, if needed: one on Dec. 2, for the governor’s race, and another on Jan. 6, for the Senate contest. . . . 

The 2008 elections offer a relevant illustration. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss was just barely forced into a runoff after receiving 49.8 percent of the vote in November, while Democrat Jim Martin narrowly trailed with 46.8 percent. But in December, just a month later, turnout dropped by a hefty 43 percent, from 3.7 million to 2.1 million, and Chambliss triumphed by a wide margin, 57 to 43.

Could a Democrat beat a Republican head-to-head in a runoff election in Georgia? Sure, it’s possible. Just very, very, very difficult.

Tags: Mitch McConnell , Matt Bevin , Tom Cotton , Mark Pryor , Georgia

Why GOP Senate Candidates Shouldn’t Be Arguing About McConnell Now


There’s been a lot of discussion — perhaps too much discussion — about Ben Sasse’s statement that he could “absolutely” vote for Mitch McConnell as GOP leader in the Senate if, as expected, he wins in November.

Theoretically, Mitch McConnell may not even be in the Senate next year; his lead in the polls in Kentucky against Democrat Allison Lundergan Grimes is pretty slim lately. But let’s assume a longtime Republican incumbent with enormous resources and the ability to call in favors from just about anybody in the GOP wins a midterm election in Kentucky, which is usually a pretty safe bet.

At a gathering of Republicans in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, last month, Senator Tim Scott was asked whether he would support McConnell. Scott smiled and said, “I’m going to dodge that question,” — laughter from the audience — “and let me tell you why I’m going to dodge that question: Right now, I don’t know who’s going to be running for leader.”

Few would argue that Tim Scott is a RINO; for many reasons, public declarations of support for a GOP Senate leader in January 2015 are a lousy measuring stick for squish-itude. First, a reminder of who’s running the Senate these days:

Way to go, Nevada. Way to go.

How do you like Mitch McConnell? Well, compared to whom? Any conservative who scoffs, “anyone would be better than McConnell!” hasn’t thought the prospects through very well.

Paraphrasing a good monologue from Jay Nordlinger, conservatives used to lament that Senate minority leader Howard Baker was too soft, and that they needed a leader who was tougher, like Bob Dole. Then Dole disappointed them, and they felt refreshed and reassured at the prospect of Trent Lott. Several gargantuan, pork-laden appropriations cycles later, they warmed to the prospect of Bill Frist . . . and you can see where this is going.

The Senate Republican leader is never the most conservative member of the caucus, and the most conservative member of the caucus will never be the Senate Republican leader. Full stop. It’s the nature of the job; you have to be elected by a majority of your caucus and your role is, ideally, to lead the whole caucus and ideally be trusted by that whole caucus. A party leader has to build consensus, and it’s almost impossible to do if you’re defined yourself through your career at one extreme of the party (say, Susan Collins) or the other (say, Tom Coburn, lifetime ACU rating of 98).

Secondly, the most conservative member of the GOP Senate caucus very rarely wants to run for majority leader. One of the key roles as party leader is to negotiate with leaders of the opposite party and get the best deal you can. When you’re not in negotiations, it’s easy — and, admittedly, sometimes accurate — to say drawing a harder line could have gotten a better deal. Once you’re the leader doing the negotiating, you have the task of arguing that the half of loaf you’ve secured is the biggest fraction of the bread anyone could get — and now some other young whippersnapper is saying he could have gotten a better deal.

Maybe some other Senate Republican will challenge McConnell as leader in January 2015. Maybe (probably) not. There will be more time to worry about and debate this after Election Day — when we know whether or not Republicans will be selecting a Senate majority leader.

Tags: Ben Sasse , Harry Reid , Mitch McConnell

McConnell: ‘The Bill of Rights Does Not Come A La Carte’


Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, addressed the National Rifle Association’s general meeting this afternoon, and delivered a passionate defense of both the Second and First Amendments. Informing the audience that he was a “proud lifetime member of the NRA,” McConnell suggested that the biggest risk that the gun-control movement currently poses is to privacy. “Look at what we saw in New York a little over a year ago,” he told the crowd, “when a newspaper published an interactive map of government data containing the names and addresses of law-abiding citizens with firearm permits.” In order to protect “the personal information of private gun owners,” McConnell explained, he had “supported legislation in the Senate last year that aims to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.” That legislation “would sanction any state or local government that publicly releases the personal information of private gun owners.” He wasn’t sure if it would pass.

McConnell also praised the number of jobs that the firearms industry is sustaining. “There are hundreds of Kentucky jobs generated by the firearms industry,” he confirmed. “I hope our vibrant Second Amendment culture results in even more job creation.”

Later, the senator touched on broader questions of constitutional integrity, reminding the crowd of his strong First Amendment record. “We’re here to talk about the Constitution,” he said. “And my message to you today is this: the Bill of Rights does not come a la carte. It’s not a pick and choose menu . . .  despite what some in Washington may think.” That “some” in question was “the current Administration,” and, McConnell suggested, they “see things differently.” The Obama administration, he contended, has “betrayed a really nasty side,” trying “to curb the rights of those they disagree with, whether it’s your right to bear arms or whether it’s your right to speak up without fear of government intimidation” and revealing “again and again how determined it is to shut up its critics” — people whose only “sin” is “advocating for causes in which they believe,” and “promoting things like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

“If you believe in the Constitution,” McConnell reasoned, “you defend all of it — not just the parts that happen to be popular at Washington cocktail parties. That’s the oath we take. That’s the charge we’re entrusted to keep.” But, he suggested, the “IRS targeting scandal showed just how determined the enemies of free speech really are. It was the kind of thing you’d expect from a banana republic, not the freest nation on Earth — which is exactly why people were so shocked by it.”

McConnell finished with a promise to push back. “We know we’re on the right side here,” he told the audience, “so let’s keep fighting for all of our constitutional freedoms — the First Amendment, and the Second Amendment, and the full array of rights and liberties our Constitution guarantees.

“The Founders would expect us to do no less,” he said. “And I know we’ll ultimately prevail.”

Tags: Mitch McConnell , NRA Convention 2014

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


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