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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.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks. I'm sending this to a friend (3+ / 0-)

    who lives in Kentucky. She told me the day after the election she signed up to work against McConnell. This should give some starting points.

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H.L. Mencken, 1925

    by cv lurking gf on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 07:21:41 AM PST

  •  So it sounds like the best bet is really... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...Ashley Judd... Because really, what is there to lose?

    "If these Republicans can't stand up to Rush, how can they stand up to the Iranians?" - Redmond Barry

    by xsonogall on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 07:42:50 AM PST

  •  Kentuckians aren't stupid (0+ / 0-)

    McConnell is not good for this state. Neither is Rand Paul.

    Crit could take McConnell out. And I still think that Jack Conway can take out Rand Paul. If he doesn't do it, then we'll recruit Jim Gray.

    And Andy Barr is an airhead. We'll take him out in two years.

    One may live without bread, but not without roses.
    ~Jean Richepin
    Bread & Roses

    by bronte17 on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 07:46:15 AM PST

    •  Not Jack Conway (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I like him, but he isn't the right guy, sorry.

      If we want to win races going forward, we need to look to Crit (if she's willing), Adam Edelen assuming he stays popular and most certainly Alison.

      •  Alison could probably take on Rand Paul (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But it's going to take Crit to take McConnell.

        One may live without bread, but not without roses.
        ~Jean Richepin
        Bread & Roses

        by bronte17 on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 08:06:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Crit is my first choice too (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, bronte17

          which is why I listed her first. She has unbelievably high approval ratings across party lines. AFAIK, she's as clean as a whistle so there's not much bad to say about her.

          I think Alison has her sights set further down the road based on my reading of her in the times we've talked. She's never said directly and if she did I wouldn't share it anyway unless it was meant to be shared.

    •  Have to disagree (0+ / 0-)

      Kentuckians proved how stupid they are when they voted in Rand Paul. They don't seem to care what is good for the state- they simply follow the cult of celebrity. But on the plus side, if Ashley Judd decided to run, it would give her a leg up on McConnell.

    •  Crit Luallen wants to be Governor. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think Crit is the best Democrat in the State and I hope she'll run for something.  She is, I think, the ideal candidate for Kentucky.  I think it's a bit optimistic on Jack Conway.  Hopefully Ben Chandler will run for something again.  We do have a big bench here in Kentucky. I got an email from Jonathon Miller saying that he was going to be on The Daily Show on Comedy Central last night.  He is a former State Treasure and has a blog about being a recovering politician. John Y. Brown III is a young former statewide office holder.  So, we have potential we just got to find a way to make it work. There is a Democratic infrastructure in Kentucky, people seem to forget that we are not a right to work state, I just hope that the state party receives the funding needed to build an operation for the future candidate.

      •  I'm thinking Ben may run for Governor (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        When he was on Appropriations, he was wise to stay in Congress. But now... he's free to expand into better venues for his skills.

        And Jonathan has such a baby face... he looks so young that a lot of people don't take him seriously... maybe a beard would help. Anyway he could probably run against Andy Barr. I like Kathy Stein myself and would like to see her position herself for the run.

        As for not being a right-to-work state... tell that to uber-major KY employer Toyota. Vicious hostility to unionizing and homophobic to the max. Detrimental and deadly working conditions at their local suppliers.

        The precedent has been set that Kentuckians aren't good enough to deserve healthcare and will work double shifts for one-shift pay.

        Lexington is losing its middle class while Georgetown (Toyotaville) and Jessamine County gain.

        It's going to be difficult for Democrats to keep a balance in Lexington (Kentucky's 2nd urban district).

        One may live without bread, but not without roses.
        ~Jean Richepin
        Bread & Roses

        by bronte17 on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 08:26:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  This isnt about stupidity (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bronte17, General Goose

      A lot of people vote Republican not because they're unintelligent or something, but because they identify with the Republican Party culturally. Frankly, I think it's unwise (a nice way of saying "stupid") for Democrats to act like Republican voters are all idiots. That's as bad a thing to say as Mitt Romney's 47% comments.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:18:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  They aren't? (0+ / 0-)

      Then why have they elected McConnell five different times?

      Why did they elect Rand Paul? And the even more racist Jim Bunning before him?

      Why did they vote for Bush twice? And McCain? And Romney?

      I agree with the OP. Let's continue to see things as they are, not as we want them to be. At the federal level, the Democrats barely exist in Kentucky.

  •  McConnell's got a lot of money. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zack from the SFV, MichaelNY

    I think the battlegrounds are Northern Kentucky and Western Kentucky.  Louisville, Frankfort, and Lexington are very competitive already for Democrats.  As long as the candidate is a conservative Democrat they should do very well in Eastern Kentucky.  Western Kentucky just seems to be a very hard area for Democrats, they managed some success in the state house races there.  I think McConnell will be re-elected and a senator for life.  I live in Ashland, KY and I try to stay positive about the advancement of our commonwealth, but I think Mark Twain was right.  I think Grimes could really give him a run for his money, but I think it's like you said with Carnahan.  Lunsford will not spend his millions again. I don't know much about Matthew Barzun, but I couldn't imagine him actually doing well outside of the urban areas.  

  •  And right up until Election Night (3+ / 0-)

    everyone had written off the possibility of holding onto the North Dakota Senate seat.

    I don't believe in giving up two years before the next election.

    •  I don't either, and I doubt the diarist does. (4+ / 0-)

      I think it's more that we have a better chance to win when we remain sober, so we can correctly analyze weaknesses and strengths.

      Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?

      by ConfusedSkyes on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 07:55:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not on DKE (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CF of Aus

      Many of us either predicted Heitkamp would win (I ultimately did, on the basis of late polls) or thought she'd lose narrowly.

      And no-one is "giving up" by suggesting a baseline condition of the race.

      If you'd prefer not to read dispassionate analysis of elections and campaigns, you will not like diaries or daily digest discussion threads on DKE.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:21:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  He's "vulnerable" in the sense ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, ekyprogressive

    that he's not overwhelmingly popular in Kentucky. Democrats made a bad choice last time in choosing Lunsford. He was a trainwreck. Fischer was by far the better choice.

  •  Keep up a constant drumbeat (0+ / 0-)

    against McConnell starting now and continuing until the election in 2014.  Make sure everyone in the state of Kentucky knows that it's McConnell's fault nothing is getting done in the Senate and his behavior is making Kentucky look bad.  That will either move him towards capitulation or it will help get rid of him.  I'm ready to donate to a challenger who has a chance of defeating him.

    •  What if... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      it's McConnell's fault nothing is getting done in the Senate and his behavior is making Kentucky look bad.
      Is that really meaningful to the average voter?  The way Obama's been vilified, getting nothing done seems to be a good thing to them.

      Would it work to fully list everything McConnell has done that harms, or fails to help, the average worker or retiree or child in Kentucky?  List every item, hundreds of items, and very concisely tell why that hurts the people he claims to represent.

    •  That wouldn't be true (0+ / 0-)
      Make sure everyone in the state of Kentucky knows that it's McConnell's fault nothing is getting done in the Senate
      If that happens, it's because the Democrats refused to end the filibuster rule. He shouldn't be able to block anything.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:23:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That'd be dumb politics (0+ / 0-)

      Because alot of Kentucky is probably actually glad that none of Obama's agenda is getting enacted because of McConnell's grandstanding (and you better know that that is how McConnell will frame it if attacked along those lines).

      22 Burkean Post Modern Gay Democrat; NM-2 (Raised), TX-20 (B.A. & M.A. in Political Science), TX-17 (Home); Intern w/ Gallego for Congress; Office Personnel at CCA.

      by wwmiv on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 03:42:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "There's not enough money in politics" (0+ / 0-)

    ...any buffoon of an elected person who says such a thing, least of all actually believes such a ludicrous thing, is most definitely vulnerable if someone has the guts to point this out and hold them accountable.

    And yet, Mitch McConnell, who not only uttered those words years ago, but has repeatedly defended and has never retracted those comments even up until the present, still stands by such ludicrous, insane words and ludicrous, insane thinking.

    "There's not enough money in politics" McConnell is the name that every Kentucky citizen (and every American, for that matter) should know him as...because it's true.

    And today, especially in light of the insanity brought about by the avalanche of unregulated, secret corporate money from Citizens United, McConnell's ludicrous proposition is even more insane and more disturbing than ever before.

    In fact, whomever the Democratic nominee is against Mittch McConnell, should make this their number one issue...because it shows exactly how corrupt this man is by all of that money lavished on him by the wealthy order to to their bidding. It shows what an utter, absolute political prostitute that Mitch McConnell is.

    (Other than that, opinion.)

    •  Making money in politics the #1 issue (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is unlikely to be a successful campaign strategy. Where has it been?

      I agree that McConnell is "vulnerable," to the extent that I'd rate this race Likely R, not Safe R. But that's it. You have to consider the advantages of incumbency and a huge warchest, plus the partisan leans of a state, when you handicap races.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:25:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  that huge war chest is exactly part of the problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY vowing to fight for campaign finance reform and exposing McConnell's insane position on money in politics (that there's not enough of it, of all things) should be a winning issue for them, if done correctly.

        Making Mitch McConnell the poster boy for what's wrong with this country's political system, and the corrupt influence money has on it, seems like a good approach for a challenger, especially since it's so easy to show that McConnell is nothing but a political prostitute, willingly doing the bidding of those who give him massive amounts of money and against the interests of average, everyday citizens (of Kentucky and the nation).

        •  OK, I'm getting this more now (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          If his opponent campaigns against him on the basis that he's doing favors for companies that essentially bribed him by bankrolling his campaign, and shows how that's actually hurt Kentuckians, that could be a good way to go. But they'd need good examples that could be put in persuasive TV ads.

          Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

          by MichaelNY on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:58:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Ditch Mitch - Ky (0+ / 0-)

    I hope this isn't out of line and allowable.  I think this is one of the more organized facebook groups against re-electing McConnell.  People should join if they support the cause, even if they don't live in Kentucky.  Could be a neat idea to organize and collaborate before we have the nominee.

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