She’s not Ashley Judd, and that may be good news for Mitch McConnell — or Democrats in Kentucky. Alison Lundergan Grimes ended months of speculation and no small amount of anxiety for Democrats, announcing yesterday that she would run for the US Senate seat now held by the Senate Minority Leader. Grimes and her allies talk about ending McConnell’s “30-year grip on power,” but they have an uphill climb in a very tough cycle:
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Monday that she’s challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, giving Democrats their top recruit in the race.
“I’m here today to tell you that I have met with my supporters, we have had a great conversation and determined and decided that we can next make the best move, the best difference in the Commonwealth of Kentucky by running for the U.S. Senate,” Grimes said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Grimes had sat out the preliminaries while Judd openly toyed with a celebrity run earlier this year, which turned into a disaster for Kentucky Democrats. That eliminated most of the momentum for nationalizing the race, a key for Democrats to compete against McConnell’s fundraising ability. It also damaged their credibility, thanks to the desperation to draft a Tennessee resident into a Bluegrass State election. That was followed by the bugging of McConnell’s campaign meeting, which McConnell has already begun to use to attack Democrats and will likely use much more now that Democrats have settled on a party-machine candidate like Grimes.
Small wonder it took Grimes so long to jump into the race, which is now just 16 months away — a short time for a Senate campaign, and realistically about as long as she could wait. That wasn’t reluctance, Grimes assured reporters yesterday — just due diligence:
“I have met with my supporters. We have had a great conversation and determined and decided that we can next make the best move, the best difference in the commonwealth of Kentucky by running for the U.S. Senate,” Grimes said at a news conference in Frankfort, Ky.
“Over the course of the past 12 weeks I have taken the time necessary to gather all the facts to make truly an informed decision and that includes listening to my supporters all across this state,” Grimes said. “Make no mistake members of the media this due diligence was not reluctance, it was not hesitancy, but rather a deliberate gathering of all the necessary facts to make a decision that should not be taken lightly. During this process the question never was: ‘Is Mitch McConnell vulnerable? Does Kentucky deserve a change?’ The answer to both of those two questions remains and is yes. The question before my supporters which we have been working diligently on is, ‘How best can we continue to make a difference and move this commonwealth forward.”
If Kentucky Democrats want to provide change to entrenched power, nominating the daughter of a former state party chairman seems an odd way to do so. Furthermore, it’s their misfortune to have both of their Senate seats come up for election in Barack Obama’s midterm elections. Rand Paul ran his first-ever political campaign against well-established Democrat Jack Conway, the state’s attorney general, and beat him by 11 points in 2010.
This time, they’re going to run their Secretary of State against someone with decades of experience in Kentucky campaigns, at the same time that the IRS scandal and the implementation of ObamaCare will have Republicans fired up for the polls. The Tea Party, which is significant in Kentucky, will have extra incentive to punish the Obama administration in the next cycle, even if McConnell isn’t one of their favorites in Washington.
McConnell may not have polled spectacularly well against Judd and may not to start against Grimes either, but Democrats will have a tall, tall order to pull off an upset against a Republican in a red state like Kentucky in a second-term midterm election. Given the problems Democrats will have defending red-state incumbents, they’re not likely to pour a lot of national resources into Kentucky to help Grimes tilt at this windmill, either.
Update: At least according to the NRSC, Grimes didn’t get off to an auspicious start, either:
Mom always told us to make a good first impression. Yesterday after taking months to decide whether to run for Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes called a last minute press conference that she ended up being more than 30 minutes late to. Rumors swirled. Would she run? Political operatives from both parties speculated that a Monday afternoon during a Holiday week was a bizarre time to launch a Senate campaign and suggested the reluctant candidate would pass.
What followed will no doubt be remembered as the most disastrous campaign launch since Ben Konop’s epic 2009 Toledo Mayoral campaign launch.
As various reports have showed:
- Grimes’ announcement led off with the wrong backdrop (it was a campaign backdrop from her run for Secretary of State – her staff announced it was the only backdrop they had). In other words, Kentucky’s Secretary of State apparently needs a primer in federal campaign finance laws.
- Grimes spoke from a podium that carried on microphone stuck in a toilet paper roll. We’ve been around a lot of last minute press conferences, but we’ve never seen anything like this.
- Political reporters in Kentucky weren’t impressed. “Sweating. You’d think Jerry Lundergan could pay to keep the AC on,” tweeted Joe Gerth of the Courier-Journal.
- There was no website. No literature. No stickers. No signs. No social media presence. No momentum. We’ve seen campaigns for student council Vice President kick off with more. It was so bad that Grimes’ team had to claim that Grimes actually didn’t announce yesterday… that was just the launch before the launch…umm… mmmkay.
- The candidate’s performance underwhelmed. Lundergan Grimes is beyond green – and not just on her anti-coal policy. We’ve noticed that she repeatedly tries to get by with sound bytes, buzzwords, generalities, and vapid platitudes that read as though they were written by a Deputy Press Secretary over at the DNC. Yesterday was no different. After keeping reporters waiting for more than 30 mins, the candidate spoke for under five. Ben Shapiro noted that in Kentucky, Lundergan Grimes “is widely perceived in the state as a wooden politician with little charisma, and a family legacy of Democratic Party politics.” It showed. “Grimes took just two questions Monday. Asked her feelings on Obamacare, she said this election can’t change who is president….” This from the candidate who proudly nominated Barack Obama for President at last year’s Democratic National Convention – despite residing in a state that opposed him by more than 20 points (you know, when we could have changed who is President).
Seriously, worst launch ever?