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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Wrap your head around this.

The Republican Party could win a majority in the Senate and Senator McConnell (KY, R) might not be majority leader.

Is this something out of House of Cards?        

Remember when Senator McConnell said that his party's single most important job is for President Obama to be a one-term president when he addressed the Heritage Foundation?

And then President Obama won a second term?

And issued this statement on Election Night that just reeked of sour grapes?

“The American people did two things: they gave President Obama a second chance to fix the problems that even he admits he failed to solve during his first four years in office, and they preserved Republican control of the House of Representatives. The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the President’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control."

Senator McConnell might be the one who is denied another term in office.

The Kentucky election for the US Senate is shaping up to be a very complex and intriguing election this cycle.

During the primary Senator McConnell faced a challenge from his right flank that received a lot of ballyhoo from the DC press, but the result failed to live up to the manufactured hype. There is evidence behind this line of thinking. Incumbent Republican senators were once seen as shoe-ins for renomination by their state's party voters, but in recent cycles they have seen their vote share decline to just below 75%. Recent losses by Bob Bennett and Dick Lugar have attributed to this decline. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska lost her primary in 2010 but launched a successful write-in campaign to keep her seat in the general.

The decline continued in 2014. Senator John Cornyn (TX, R) won his primary with 59.4% of the vote in an eight candidate field. Prominent of the hawk wing of the Republican Party, Lindsay Graham, won his primary with 56.4% of the vote in a seven candidate field. In Tennessee and Kansas Republican incumbent senators failed to secure a majority, but those states do not have runoffs like what happened in Mississippi.

Senator McConnell was not immune to falling short of the 75%. In his primary he earned just above 60% of the vote from Kentucky Republicans.

So is McConnell a shoe-in for re-election like Cornyn, Alexander, Cochran, and Graham are in their respective states?

Not exactly.

If your initial entry to American politics was the presidential elections, you would likely make the assumption that Kentucky is a red state. And you would be correct when it comes to who Kentucky supports in presidential elections. The last time Kentucky supported the Democratic Party for president was in Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 campaigns.

But Kentucky has a blue streak when it comes to state level politics. The governor, Steve Beshear, was elected in 2007 defeating incumbent Ernie Fletcher and re-elected in 2011. When ObamaCare took effect in October 2013, Governor Beshear said his state will participate in the program and authored this op-ed in the New York Times specifically targeting his state's senators for continually voting to repeal ObamaCare.

They insist that the Affordable Care Act will never work — when in fact a similar approach put into effect in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor, is working.

So, to those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, “Get over it.”

The Affordable Care Act was approved by Congress and sanctioned by the Supreme Court. It is the law of the land.

Get over it ... and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life.

Kentucky's health exchange program, or Kynect, is one of the many ObamaCare success stories. At the 2014 State Of The Union, President Obama praised Governor Beshear for his efforts to implement this program.

Other statewide offices Kentucky Democrats hold are Lt. Governor (elected with the governor on the same ticket), Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, and Auditor. While the Republicans hold the State Senate in the General Assembly, Democrats hold the House. This is important to know because Senator Rand Paul is rumored to be running for President in-the-election-I-do-not-want-to-talk-about-until-5-November in 2016.

Paul is also up for re-election for his senate seat in that same cycle. As of this time, Kentucky election law does not allow a candidate to appear on two separate ballots in the same ballot. This is commonly referred to as the LBJ Law, named after Lyndon Johnson when in 1959 the Texas Lege changed the law to allow Johnson to run for the US Senate in 1960 and be a candidate for either president or vice-president. The Kentucky Senate, controlled by Republicans, passed the bill, but the Kentucky House, controlled by Democrats, are blocking this bill. Nearly two-thirds of Kentucky voters oppose changing the law to allow Paul to have the option of running for both offices in 2016.

Given the state level politics of Kentucky, it is why Democrats in that state believe they can win a US Senate seat for the first time since 1992.

Adding to this hope comes from the primaries. In the 2014 primaries, McConnell received 213,753 votes among 355,116 votes cast. His Democratic opponent, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, received 307,821 votes among 402,524 votes cast.

Grimes has name recognition both as an elected official and coming from a prominent Democratic family in the state.

The Grimes campaign has received a lot of support from within and outside Kentucky and the same for McConnell. This election might become the most expensive Senate election ever surpassing the $82 million spent in Massachusetts in 2012.

Grimes is not exactly running a terrible campaign. She supports many Democratic Party positions such as raising the minimum wage and pay equity, but also recognizes the state she is in. Coal and other fossil fuels are king in the Bluegrass State especially in the southeastern part of the state that borders West Virginia. Grimes stated her support for building of the Keystone XL pipeline which is creating ire from environmentalists.

The polls show McConnell leading but only by single digits. This is a problem a lot of great red state Democrats run into when they try to challenge incumbents. Yes, Grimes did earn more votes than McConnell in the primary and more people participated in the Democratic primary than Republican primary. It is safe to assume that those voters who participated in that election will return for the November general.

However Grimes is running in a state where President Obama is not exactly the most popular guy. In 2008, Obama received 41.2% of the vote. In the next presidential election, Obama received 37.8% of the vote. Both times the state went for the Republican presidential candidate.

Again, the last time Kentucky sent their electoral votes to a Democrat was in 1996 and before that 1992.

While the Obama popularity narrative is the focus in Kentucky, there is also this that is working in the Democrats favor too. Obama might not be popular in Kentucky, but Senator McConnell's popularity is no better. In a Public Policy Polling poll conducted in August 2014, McConnell's job approval in Kentucky is 37% compared to Obama's Kentucky approval of 32%. Kentucky is a prime example of many voters in red states voting against their own self interests. McConnell is vulnerable because he is the face of congressional obstruction and has no accomplishments to his record.

If Grimes is to win she will need to reach out to Republican voters who feel that McConnell is not deserving of another term. That will be difficult given that those voters are exhibiting a pack mentality and will be supporting McConnell despite he has offered nothing to the voters in return.

Grimes has one opportunity to offer herself as the alternative to McConnell: the 13 October debate that will air on Kentucky Tonight.

If the Grimes that appeared at Fancy Farms shows up to the debate:

McConnell will be denied another term in the US Senate.

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