McConnell's bad poll numbers have been celebrated on these pages as showing a potential game-changing win by his challenger, Alison Grimes. But I take a contrarian view, to some extent. I think what these polls indicate is McConnell's surprising strength at this stage of the campaign. I think it is a warning sign that we are underestimating him. More resources need to be put by Democrats into this election if we are to beat him. Furthermore, we need to go negative against him hard and early. His comments today in Politico today indicate to me he is feeling strengthened:
“We were confronted with a clean debt ceiling in the Senate or default. I believe I have to act in the best interests of the country, and every time we’ve been confronted with a potential crisis, the guy you’re looking at is the one who stepped up to solve the problem,” McConnell told reporters, according to Associated Press video.That's not the talk of a Washington politician who is on the ropes. He's out there pressing the case for his time in Washington as a strength, signaling to business Republicans he's their man, and pleasing the media establishment with his bipartisany goodness (vomit here). Mitch McConnell isn't scared, and he should be. We have to MAKE him afraid.
McConnell then explained his leading roles in evading the fiscal cliff two years ago and his work with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to reopen the government and avert default last October.
“It was clear that we needed to produce enough procedural votes to get to a debt ceiling vote in order to avoid a default. My job is to protect the country when I can, and to step up and lead on those occasions when it’s required. That’s what I did,” said McConnell, who faces both primary and general election opponents in a tough path toward reelection.
But before I get to McConnell analysis, lets consider our team.
Grimes beat her opponent for Secretary of State in 2011, her first statewide win with better than 60% of the vote. Clearly she knows how to win statewide. But lets not forget the significant advantage in resources she had for that race:
Grimes piled up a massive fund-raising edge in the race, taking in $476,000 in contributions from mid-May through late October compared to $63,000 for Johnson. She had $360,000 to spend in the final weeks of the campaign, while Johnson had only $39,600, finance reports showed.Furthermore she faced token opposition from a Republican whose only electoral experience was quitting in the middle of a third place in the polls Senate quest in 2010. The lady that he beat had never run for office in her life. She was a federal bureaucrat. I say all this just to note that Grimes isn't facing token opposition now, and will need massive resources to defeat McConnell.
Here's something you need to know: Kentucky's statewide elected Democrats, Gov. Bashear, Abramson, Conway, Edelen, Grimes, and Hollenbach (all six are Democrat) prove that Democrats can win statewide in Kentucky. But in each case, excepting Bashear's tough challenge to a corrupt Fletcher in 2007, those Dems had significant financial advantage and weak opposition. Also note off years of these statewide electorates, which helps sharpen voter focus on local rather then national issues when Federal elections are up.
Conway's losing play for the open Senate seat in 2010 offers us some instruction. Conway was significantly outspent, both head to head with Paul and by outside groups on both sides. Conway lost by 11, 55 to 44. But in the Spring and throughout the Summer they were neck and neck, both in the low to mid 40's. Conway simply wasn't getting the kind of resources he needed to tilt against the GOP favorable electorate that year (which was not a wave, but just slightly better than normal GOP partisan turnout...the 2010 problem was sharp decline of the 2008 new voter electorate).
This year, I predict Grimes will face a similar electorate: statewide, federal issue focused, and leaning GOP. However, the stronger position of Kentucky Democrats under Bashear gives us some additional firepower we didn't have in 2010. And with Bill Clinton's fundraising help, she's certainly got a bank to go to. But even with all that, just consider the latest fundraising report:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell only slightly outraised his Democratic rival in fundraising during the last quarter of 2013, the latest sign of how brutal and expensive the Kentucky race will be.McConnell has invested more and has more on hand. Grimes hasn't gone negative (most likely conserving her rolodex for the late play), when she could be shaping the GOP primary like Harry Reid did back 2010 (a campaign I believe should go down in political lore for its excellence on all fronts). It has been reported that Grimes says she's going to need $26-$30 million to beat McConnell. That sounds about right to me, if you throw in another $5 million. That's a massive sum for a Senate challenger. She's got 8 more months to raise about $20 to $25 million. We aren't even talking outside money yet. Koch Brothers and what not.
McConnell raised $2.22 million in the fourth quarter and has $10.9 million cash on hand. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, raised $2.1 million and has just under $3.5 million cash on hand.
McConnell has raised $20 million so far this cycle. His campaign said the huge haul came despite the cancellation of fundraisers during the government shutdown.
Grimes is raising more than most Senate incumbents. She’s raised about $5 million since getting into the race.
Bill and Hillary are going to have to get it done, because of they can't there are only two other Democrats in America who can:
Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.
Those are the big guns out there that are currently going unused. Why? I can kinda-sorta understand Obama fear (unfounded and silly), but Warren is just bottled lightning right now. A Senate candidate would be crazy not to go to her for support AND some campaigning. There are places where the First Lady could be extremely useful. And of course, there's the Obama data people, the best in the world by far.
McConnell is beatable, but it will not be easy. If this race remains neck and neck, McConnell will begin to pull away late as the electorate begins to resemble norms. In the end, almost all voters go home to mama. Very few actual swing voters, as I've proven on many occasions. The question is what is Grimes plan to change the makeup of the electorate? Will she have the resources to execute it? Will it work? Furthermore, if McConnell is up over 40 and in the mid 40 by Summer when the primary is resolved (he is way, way ahead of Bevin, showing the party is mostly sticking with him) McConnell is going to be in close contention. I should also note that this is not McConnell's first rodeo with a tough re-elect. Every race he's fought has been tough. He's a wily, viscous campaigner. He should not be underestimated. All guns will need to be brought to bear, from EVERYONE in the Democratic Party. Lets not leave Alison out there on the field with no team.
So, lets all chip in a little something for Grimes.