Here’s why Mitch McConnell’s chances of winning re-election remain solid, no matter whether Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes or any other potential Kentucky Democrat ends up as his opponent.
There’s no clear partisan domination of state capital politics, but at the federal level, the GOP dominance is undeniable. Seven of eight members of the congressional delegation are Republican, and Mitt Romney carried the state by 22 points last fall.
And as a national figure, McConnell stands to benefit from the fact that second-term midterms generally favor Hill leaders of the party not in the White House, who get to benefit from antagonism toward a president who won’t ever be on the ballot again.
As the Senate minority leader, he’ll also be able to raise whatever he needs and then some — he brought in $19 million and won by 7 points last time, and he’s already raised $10 million for next year — while any Democrat other than Ashley Judd, who’s not running, will only be able to become financially competitive by getting close in the polls from the outset or closing strong next summer and fall.
And as someone who came close to moving over to majority leader in both of the past two campaigns, McConnell will never be more motivated to win than in 2014, when the GOP is once again positioned to make a strong run at winning back the Senate.
McConnell long ago secured his reputation as one of the fiercest and most polarizing campaigners in all of Congress. Judd would have given him limitless obvious opportunities to put those qualities on display for 19 straight months.
A passel of other Democrats — including Gov. Steven L. Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway and Rep. John Yarmuth — have already declined entreaties to enter a race where every scrap of their long records would be fodder for McConnell’s combative scrutiny. It might take a while longer, but the senator would surely find ways to attack even an opponent such as Grimes, who would start her campaign with the closest thing there is to an ideological blank slate.