Last Friday morning, Oct. 10, James R. Carroll of the Gannet owned Courier-Journal reported that new polling showed Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell trailing (D) opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes. SurveyUSA asked voters three major questions. Which of the two will you vote for, do you think the time has come to replace McConnell, and have you made up your mind? In a shift favoring the Democratic challenger, Ky. Sec. of State Grimes is pulling ahead according to the most recent data.
It has been a seesaw battle with McConnell often in front, either by fewer percentage points than expected, or Grimes pulling close and ahead. The latest indicators point to her quite possibly unseating the long time Ky. Senator and minority leader on Capitol Hill. McConnell may have done himself more harm than good obstructing nearly every Democratic Party and White House initiative since the very beginning of Pres. Obama’s first term.
As a result, the senior Senator branded himself a beltway insider tied to lobbyists, in the minds of his constituents. Rather than enhance the public persona of a legislator serving the best interests of Kentucky residents, for McConnell, that strategy may not “bring home the bacon.”
Unseating the Republican Senate minority leader would be a major coup for Democrats, who may be in jeopardy of losing their majority in the Senate Chamber. Much of this election year has seen repeated predictions & polling that suggests Democrats may lose races in Ark., La., N.C., Col., & AK. In the past month more than ever before, Democrats running in predominantly RED states are attempting to distance themselves from the Obama administration. The President’s popularity decreasing, especially in Republican strongholds he had previously been successful in makes these mid-terms that much more difficult for those Democrats.
However, whatever happens on the campaign trail in the eyes of this observer is not the primary determinant of outcomes. Voter turnout will be the single most important factor for both parties. Defeating McConnell only becomes a possibility if the states overwhelming number of Ky. Democratic Party registrants cast ballots in record numbers.
Back on Aug. 28, McConnell held a small four-point lead in a Bluegrass Poll. Instead, now SurveyUSA shows a trend going in the opposite direction.
Grimes is gaining ground among middle-income voters, and doing much better in Eastern and Western Kentucky. In the Greater Louisville area, her lead increased from 7 to 16 percent. Consultant Mark Mellman conducted an internal poll showing she had a two-point lead statewide. Jonathan Hurst is Grimes campaign manager. He insists two factors will determine the outcome in her favor, citing “overwhelming grassroots enthusiasm.” Then going on to say, "Young voters may swing the Senate race.”
If he is correct, history will have to reverse itself. Will Grimes excite enough young people to make the difference? The raw data says she can.
The greatest sign of weakness for McConnell is indicated by an inarguable rising tide of possible defeat. When asked if it's time for him to be replaced after 30 years in office - 57 percent of registered voters surveyed said yes. That conclusion was also recorded among 33 percent of conservatives and 27 percent of Republicans.
McConnell, not unexpedidly has focused on securing the vote from white men in Eastern and Western Kentucky. But according to University of Kentucky educator & political reporter Al Cross, his message isn’t leading to solid gains. While polls suggest Grimes has increased expected male votes in small cities and rural Kentucky.
Two days before the most recent polling results were reported, on Oct. 8 in his blog for the huffingtonpost.com, veteran national political analyst Howard Fineman wrote that he saw a sense of urgency or possibly even desperation on the part of the McConnell campaign. A harsh statement from a well-respected voice amongst senior media commentators.
He pointed out that McConnell has outspent Alison Grimes by more than 2-1, & between now and Nov. may more than double that. Fineman wrote, “His big spending allies are dumping huge amounts of cash into the race.” Reading the huffpost’s most experienced political journalist I asked myself, “Is this a sign of wilting confidence - or - confident that money will determine the election?”
Fineman also noted immigration policy, the McConnell team spinning her close ties to Pres. Obama – but as Kentucky Secretary of State, she has nothing to do with it as a policy issue. In addition, there is no tide of undocumented immigrants deluging the Bluegrass State. According to media reports that mirror those observation’s - overall, there seems to be less and less enthusiasm for McConnell’s support as a 30-year incumbent who has never been personally popular nor stood for much besides opposing Democratic ideas. In a year when womens issues and Main St. pocketbooks are driving so much of the narrative, Grimes has taken full advantage of McConnell’s intransigence.