Alison Lundergan Grimes fails to capture the hearts and minds... of women

Earlier this week we looked at how one poll does not a game changer make when it comes to the Kentucky Senate race. But the lackluster performance by Alison Lundergan Grimes has left a lot of Democrat strategists scratching their heads. Surely a stodgy old Republican white man should be getting his clock cleaned in the women’s vote, right? What about the War on Women?

Matt Lewis, writing at The Week, breaks down the numbers.

In two Bluegrass Polls, conducted in July and August, respectively, by SurveyUSA, Grimes led among women by a single measly percent. This was corroborated by an August PPP poll, which also found Grimes with just a one-point lead among women. And a Fox News poll released yesterday showed Grimes with just a two-point lead among women.

Nobody would have expected that McConnell, running against a 34-year-old Democratic woman, would have parity with her among female voters. But he does. So how has he done it?

Back in January of 2013, Ashley Parker explained in The New York Times how McConnell’s team planned to handle the gender issue, noting: “Given recent struggles that Republican Senate contenders have had with women’s issues, Mr. McConnell’s advisers say they intend to confront head-on the criticism Democrats have already begun leveling against him on issues they view as particularly important to female voters.”

Matt goes into some of this, but it seems that there are two distinctly different factors at play which may explain why Grimes isn’t delivering the expected knockout punch with female voters. The first is the one that will appeal to wonks and dedicated election followers. McConnell’s team has just run a smart campaign. He’s highlighted his voting record on things like the Violence Against Women Act and put forward a number of persuasive female surrogates to make the sale for him. (Not the least of which is his wife, who is quite popular at home.) They were ready for the attacks along these lines and took steps to neutralize them.

But perhaps even more importantly – and somewhat counter to the above rationale – is that not everyone in the country can be neatly stuffed into demographic pigeonholes, much to the dismay of pollsters and campaign consultants. Simply having the correct set of genitals does not mean that one is going to fall in line with the predicted talking points of the day. The women voters of Kentucky seem to have more on their minds than just how much contraception costs. They have families to raise and bills to pay like anyone else. When the Democrats run a candidate who is anti-coal and so many jobs in the local economy depend on that industry, that resonates more than hours of glam commercials. Bluegrass values tend to be fairly old school, and I’m guessing that a lot of these Southern Belles don’t spend their days glued to the latest talking points from Debbie Wassermann-Schultz.

Maybe … just maybe … you have to really talk to – and listen to – the voters and look beyond their gender, their skin color or which church they attend. What a novel concept.