Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is a vulnerable incumbent with high disapproval ratings and a divisive primary challenge, according to a memorandum by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’s campaign.
The Grimes team released that message on Wednesday outlining some of the 34-year-old secretary of state’s thinking a year ahead of the election.
It reveals a strategy that is relying heavily upon anti-McConnell sentiment and the work of conservative groups backing Republican Matt Bevin in 2014.
But Republicans argue that as a challenger Grimes has failed to put forward an agenda and is becoming increasingly known as a candidate who dodges important policy questions by reporters.
Polling figures bear out much of what the memo argues. Grimes leads McConnell by one or two percentage points in Democratic-leaning surveys and the Cook Report rates the Kentucky contest a “toss-up.” Other polls have consistently put the senator’s approval numbers in the basement of Washington’s popularity ratings.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in late October found only 11 percent of respondents view McConnell positively, for instance. That is less than Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and the Tea Party movement.
McConnell’s campaign points out that if Grimes is asking Kentucky voters to replace a 28-year incumbent who represents the state in the highest halls of power she will have to do more than deploy a “Ditch Mitch” strategy.
“Alison Lundergan Grimes just admitted what everyone else has already realized: she has no ideas or issues to run on, and no positive solutions to offer Kentucky,” says McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore.
“Grimes and her liberal Obama allies have conceded that their only path to victory relies on anti-Republican groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund to run attack ads against Senator McConnell while she raises money from Hollywood leftists and Obama enthusiasts who are intent on destroying Kentucky coal and implementing Obamacare. In other words, she can’t articulate a single actual reason why she should be elected Senator for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
Grimes has come out in support of core Democratic issues such as raising the minimum wage and equal pay legislation.
In some cases, however, Grimes has stiff armed the press on less static issues such as going to war with Syria or questions about domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency that she flatly ignored this week.
Critics will tag Grimes as unprepared for the position and openly question if the first-term secretary of state has the seriousness to take the position.
Part of the thinking by Grimes is that a 12-month race is more of a marathon than a sprint and she is willing to take jabs from reporters and McConnell about this in the early stages. And advisors close to Grimes tell WFPL she won’t allow McConnell and Republicans to dictate the pace of the contest.
Asked about the lack of issues in the memo, Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton says it shouldn’t be read as a policy paper, adding Grimes has come out on issues such as defending coal production against government regulation, fixing the health care law and supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
“Alison Lundergan Grimes has made it clear what she stands for and that’s putting Kentucky first. Mitch McConnell’s attempt to pretend that he has not been at the center of Washington’s dysfunction for the last 30 years is laughable,” she says. “The referendum will be on McConnell’s failed leadership. Kentuckians are ready for a real leader in the U.S. Senate – not a career politician who has wasted decades in Washington playing political games.”