This is a diary it gives me no pleasure to write. But I want DKE to stay within the "reality based community," and for the past month, I've been reading a lot of things about the vulnerability of Mitch McConnell in 2014, and they strike me as pretty flat out wrong. Right now, McConnell does not look like a pick up opportunity at all to me. That may change - I hope it does - but I want to bring us back to reality on this.
Here's the other thing - I understand if McConnell is not vulnerable, that leaves us playing defense in 2014 (I still think Susan Collins might be more vulnerable than people realize, but I'll leave that point for another diary). That's fine. We just have to make sure we don't lose more than one or two seats (very doable), and take back a bunch of seats in 2016, when we have massive opportunities.
So here are some of the myths and realities about Mitch McConnell.
Myth 1 - McConnell's approval ratings are low I fear people who say this might be confusing McConnell with Harry Reid, whose approvals were low when the 2010 election cycle began. Let's look at the facts, or specifically the last Bluegrass Poll.
The Bluegrass polls shows McConnell with a favoribility rating of 51 percent, vs. 42 percent disapproval. This compares very well with say, Tom Udall of New Mexico, who sported the exact same approval rating in PPP poll at the end of last year. No one on this site considers Udall vulnerable, with good reason.
Now one caveat - in 2011, as Republicans took a hit with all voters during the protracted budget negotiations, McConnell's popularity did decline, including in Kentucky. There was a PPP poll that indicated this, and that may be what people are thinking of. But that poll was taken in September of 2011 - a long time ago in political terms. McConnell's popularity has recovered since then. It may decline again, as McConnell becomes the face of the Republican party in the Senate.
McConnell almost lost in 2008 McConnell only won with 53 percent of the vote in 2008, against a relatively weak opponent (who did have a lot of money to spend against him, however). But 2008 was a presidential election year, Republican approvals were in the toilet, and while McCain won Kentucky, there were no doubt a lot of reluctant voters for him that year.
2014 is an off-year election, and while I expect it to be a more neutral environment than 2010, that's not going to be enough to deliver an upset victory to whoever is running against McConnell. I'm not going out on much a limb to say it won't be a Democratic wave year like in 2008 (remember that 1998 and 2002, where the president's party did pretty well in the midterms, were still pretty neutral years), and that's what you would likely need to beat McConnell, in a state where Obama lost by a bigger percentage than he did in 2008 (22 points! By comparison he only lost by 16 in 2008)
Kentucky Dems have a strong bench - No doubt this is true. But it's also relatively meaningless. Kentucky Dems won their victories at the state level, in an off year election. If you look at the federal level, they control one Congressional seat (Yarmuth) and even lost Ben Chandler's seat this year. Alison Grimes may be a good candidate for governor at some point, but she really would be Robin Carnahan at this point against McConnell. Carnahan, by the way, is retiring this year. A sad end for one of the Dems most promising political candidates, who was widely touted before getting crushed by Roy Blunt in 2010. Such a fate would likely await Grimes against McConnell, and that's why, if I were advising her, I'd tell her not to do it.
I'll even argue with our best commentator DCCyclone on this one, who said Steve Bashear (Kentucky governor) could "beat anyone." If he ran against McConnell in 2014, I'd probably take McConnell. (that's why he's not going to run).
McConnell could be taken out with a tea party challenge McConnell has Rand Paul's backing right now. That's enough to insulate him against the Erik Erickson's of the world.
So that's it. Could McConnell become more unpopular, if the Republicans overplay their hand against Obama? Sure. But right now, this does not look like a promising pickup.