It’s three weeks from Election Day, and Nate Silver lists just three U.S. Senate races where the leader has less than a 67 percent chance of winning: Kansas, Iowa and Colorado. If all other races go as expected, the Democrats need to win both Iowa and Colorado, plus they need independent Greg Orman to win in Kansas and caucus with them in order to keep control of the Senate (with Vice President Joe Biden providing a tie-breaking vote). Democrats in Washington need to be careful not to make snide comments about “flyover country” near a live microphone for the next 21 days.
Tuesday’s biggest political news was the abandonment of Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The DSCC is stopping TV commercials in the state after spending more than $2 million on behalf of Grimes’s campaign against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell, shifting its resources instead to more promising states like Georgia (perhaps the one state where a Democratic victory this year would be a good omen for the party in the 2016 presidential race).
Grimes had already been making news of her own over the past week, mostly through her repeated refusals to say whom she voted for in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. Posing as a champion of ballot-box privacy was too clever by two-thirds, and if I were to anthropomorphize the DSCC, I’d guess that its feelings were hurt by Grimes’s betrayal. Especially since it didn’t work. The Democrats may have been better off if they didn’t run anyone in Kentucky and let an independent candidate take on McConnell. We’ll see if that strategy works in Kansas.
Or maybe the DSCC was nonplussed by Grimes’s seeming not to accept the result of the 2008 Democratic nomination fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. “I’m a Clinton Democrat, through and through,” she told the Louisville Courier-Journal within seconds of going all Margaret Dumont about being asked about her presidential vote. And in Monday’s debate with McConnell, Grimes praised Bill Clinton for “growing the middle class the right way. And that’s by making sure that we are building from the foundation up.” Slates’s John Dickerson writes, “For those keeping score at home, that’s a complete condemnation of Obama’s economic policies by a Democrat.” Maybe not enough welfare reform for her taste.
A better Democratic candidate may have been Gov. Steve Beshear, who attacked McConnell after Monday’s debate for the senator’s disingenuous statements that Kentucky’s popular health-insurance exchange (Kynect) could go on even if McConnell succeeds in repealing the Affordable Care Act “root and branch.” The senator is essentially telling people who get insurance from the exchange, “I’m not firing you, I’m just not going to pay you anymore.”
TPM’s Sahil Kapur relayed the governor’s statement: “Tonight, Mitch McConnell looked into the camera and misled Kentucky about his plan to take Kynect from more than 500,000 Kentuckians who have gained health care in the last year. Mitch told Kentuckians he’d keep the website up, while pulling the plug on federal funding, tax credits, and tearing down a marketplace that has made Kentucky a model of success for the nation — all to advance his partisan political agenda that has Washington in gridlock to the point of paralysis.”
The Columbia Journalism Review’s David Uberti fretted that coverage of the Monday debate focused too much on Grimes’s coyness about her ballot behavior and not enough on McConnell’s sleight of hand:
Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes made national headlines during the debate for again declining to share how she voted in previous presidential elections. At the same time, however, the Washington press corps barely covered a claim by incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell that Obamacare, unpopular in Kentucky, could be repealed without dismantling Kynect, the popular statewide healthcare exchange funded through the law. McConnell’s argument is not only factually questionable, at best, but also seems to be of much more potential consequence to the state’s voters. Monday’s debate was the only televised face-off scheduled before the November election, and the imbalanced coverage calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.
Saying that Kynect is “of much more potential consequence to the state’s voters” (most of whom must still get coverage from their employers, not from Kynect) may be stretching things a bit. If Grimes were to serve in the Senate and be terrified of any association with Obama, the president might have less room to maneuver in advancing (or vetoing) some pretty broad policy proposals that would effect a high-poverty state like Kentucky. Both political parties are unpopular this fall, but candidates aren’t clarifying the choice for voters by pretending they don’t exist.
Image from YouTube video of Alison Lundergan Grimes interview with the editorial board of the Louisville Courier-Journal, posted by goprapidresponse.