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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, gestures during a news conference on Capitol  Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, regarding the financial crisis. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
This turtle must be stopped.
This is a long winded political analysis of a Senate race. If you're not into that kind of thing, kick rocks.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Originally posted to Triple-B in the Building on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 06:19 PM PST.

Also republished by My Old Kentucky Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The great benefit of a McConnell defeat: (25+ / 0-)

    The most important value of defeating McConnell is what will come of it in the form of GOP civil war in the form of a leadership battle in the Senate. No matter if we keep the Senate or not, beating McConnell sets off a leadership fight whose contours are not yet known. A LOT of people owe Jim DeMint favors. His influence could prove extremely disruptive. And because that leadership fight will spillover into the early days of the presidential season, the political value for Dems will be substantial.

    Furthermore, if we do hold the Senate, this could be just the seat that gets us there.

    Finally, we will finally never have to see that pasty pale, thin lipped face of oppression on Senate floor, ever again.

    •  Um... (0+ / 0-)

      Like all defeated politicians, McConnell would be resurrected as a lobbyist.  Sadly, his ghost would be haunting Washington until the end of his days.  However, at least he wouldn't be actually on the Senate floor.

      -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

      by gizmo59 on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 08:10:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  If we take this seat (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      all we have to do is hold one of the following 7 seats


      or win GA outright.

      We win one of those in addition to taking McChinless out and the Dems hold the Senate with Biden as tiebreaker.

      This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

      by DisNoir36 on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 10:32:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Beat McConnell --> GOP moves to the right. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Apart from inconveniences as Democrats govern, that has to work to finish them off as a political party.

      "I hesitate to agree with Ted Nugent...."

      by waterstreet2013 on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 05:26:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely right...they go right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        McConnell must move right to get through the primary, and that means there will be lots to send his way.

        Georgia is also do-able, believe it or not.

        It's not who likes you, it's who shows up to vote.

        WRT Christie, it's important to let one at a time stand up and then knock them down. My guess is Walker; he rises to national prominence then gets indicted.

        Then a third--maybe Paul. He won't get indicted, but he could be made a total fool by plagiarism and those old rants against the Civil Rights Act.

        GOP voters are pretty much two digit IQ folks, but they will get the pattern. And you can bet the Clinton team knows it.

  •  I've concluded.. (4+ / 0-)

    ..that if we (citizens) can't see the blatant evil in today's GOP, they (GOP) have already won. They almost elected Mitt Romney for fucks sake. A liar and cult member who wouldn't even show us his tax returns.

    Time to vote with our feet. Things aren't getting better until they get worse.

    What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. SAM HARRIS

    by Cpqemp on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 06:29:57 PM PST

  •  It's time for us to enjoy delicious turtle soup (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Of course, I'm completely morally opposed to ACTUAL turtle soup, but I think if we work hard and succeed in sending this one back out to sea, we can celebrate with some tasty Ben & Jerry's. We'll deserve it.


  •  Kentucky is slowly turning blue (4+ / 0-)

    following VA's path.  That is why Grimes is in a good position at this point.  Her positions are where people in KY are on virtually all of them, if polls out of that state are to be believed - raising the minimum wage, health care  - Obamacare has been a success in KY so far, gay marriage,  on education, on social security, Medicare, etc.   She has a great chance to defeat McConnell, who is way underwater on his approval in the state (32% approval, 60% disapproval.)  Yes, she needs money to flow her way, she needs to be close to equal to what McConnell has available.        Bill Clinton is going to be campaigning for her shortly, so is Joe Biden.  Obama might be problematic, he is just marginally more popular than McConnell in that state.  Warren, not sure.  Kentucky seems more tailored for the Big Dog to give Grimes a lift.    

    •  Obamacare gets her as much as 5% of "The Base" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sharman, Eric Nelson

      Republican vote.

      KY is exactly what Republicans feared with health care coming from the Democrats.

      "I hesitate to agree with Ted Nugent...."

      by waterstreet2013 on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 05:33:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Is there a group in KY (0+ / 0-)

      that is organizing and educating new and young voters, disenfranchised and discouraged voters, voters of color of all ages?

      If not yet, is there anyone or any group that can take on a social justice movement that includes voter awareness, education, and mobilization?

      LA-based California Calls is effectively engaging new and infrequent voters and increasing voter turnout. It doesn't campaign for individual candidates directly, but in encouraging new voters, California Calls doubtless contributed significantly to Kamala Harris's statewide victory in the last election. As AG, she has been a breath of fresh air, progressive, making real reforms.

      Anyone know of a group that might be persuaded to take this on?

      "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

      by fhcec on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 09:02:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Disapprovals for the Turtle MUST be in the 60's. (0+ / 0-)

      GWB disapprovals were in the 50's and it didn't hurt him a bit. Voters came home to momma in the end on those numbers. 3/5ths of voters must dislike Turtle for him to lose to Grimes in Ky.

  •  Fundraising is a lot of work. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mommyof3, gizmo59, slothlax

    For a large donation, the candidate has to do the ask, kiss the ring, press the flesh. Its time consuming. Keeps you off trail. Fundraisers themselves are expensive. Once the max, thats it. Theres only so many millionaires.

    But Obama and Warren have something Bill and Hill dont: that vast army of small donors who you can keep hitting over and over, one meeting at the most (have dinner with Barack...brilliant!) Thats what id want. Small donor army.

  •  I think you will start to see more organization... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theKgirls, Eric Nelson

    of support for Allison from many county Democratic organizations.  I belong to a group for Democratic women in my county, and we are planning to help Allison, both financially and with time and talent!

    Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

    by mommyof3 on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 08:03:42 PM PST

    •  this is such good news! (0+ / 0-)

      Can you check my email up thread and also the California Calls model to see if there is any way to organize 501(c)(3) voter education and get out the vote efforts in communities that are usually ignored by politicians? It could be really good for the youth and young adults who participate - jobs, training, etc. - as well as good candidates at all levels.

      Or maybe there are already such social justice groups doing this kind of work. If so, I would like to learn about them so that I can encourage others to give.

      Please keep us up to date with your organizing activities, too.

      "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

      by fhcec on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 09:12:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  When McConnell voted to extend the treasury's.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ..borrowing authority, it showed to me that he doesn't fear the teabag Bevin as much as advertised.

    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.
    ..and that Alison Grimes is the fight.

     Grimes can, on an even field beat McConnell, he's old, ugly and has never won easily but that goes to show how tough he is, and that he's got the Kentucky GOP machinery, so it's not even

    So I'm chipping in directly to her campaign

  •  they've already spent millions attacking her (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    while little has been spent on our side, and yet they are still tied. I'm a little more hopeful.

    Plus, Grimes had a tougher challenge than you made it sound like. She knocked off the appointed Democratic SOS in the primary.

    PS, I don't know how you can say that 2010 was not a wave. In the US House it gave the Republicans the biggest majority they'd had since what, the 1920s? It wasn't just a wave, it was a tidal wave.

    ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

    by James Allen on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:43:58 PM PST

  •  Good analysis (0+ / 0-)

    But she really does need to keep some distance from Obama. I say that with no pleasure, but he is viscerally disliked by many here.

    Also, it's spelled "Beshear."

    "If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." - Will Rogers

    by Kentucky DeanDemocrat on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 11:18:53 PM PST

  •  McConnel vs. Grimes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rube Goldberg

    I think you are overestimating the good influence that Sen. Warren would have.  Kentucky has a deep, deep strain of anti-intellectualism running through it.  Sen. Warren would immediately be painted as a pointy-headed, elite 'perfesser' from 'hahvard' if she showed up here.

    The Democratic Party needs to put serious resources into this race.  McConnell IS vulnerable, and Ms. Grimes has a great local political pedigree.

    Paul Ryan is vulnerable, too, in Wisconsin.  It wouldn't take that much money to give his opponent, who came respectably close in 2012, a real shot at unseating him.

    Where is Howard Dean and his "50 State Strategy" when we need him most?

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