Monday, May 19, 2014

Cross discusses the race and the nature of Kentucky politics on 'The Daily Rundown' with Chuck Todd

University of Kentucky journalism professor and Courier-Journal political columnist Al Cross discussed “Kentucky’s ‘fragmented identity’ and midterms” on "The Daily Rundown" with Chuck Todd this morning on MSNBC.

Many people assume that Kentucky is a Southern state but is next to and influenced by the Midwest. “Kentucky seems as if it has succeeded from the North,” Todd said, “but not quite.”

Cross said, “Kentucky is fundamentally a Southern state because it was a slave state, but it was the slave state that was most easy for African Americans to escape from after the war, so our black population declined to 7 percent and its remained there for a long time, so civil rights is not the issue here that it was in the rest of the South, blacks were never perceived as a political threat by whites.”

Todd asked why local elections in Kentucky are still dominated by Democrats.

Cross said Kentucky has many “Democrats of heritage,” raised in Democratic families, who have “gone to vote Republican in most elections but remain Democratic” in registration. “Another factor is we have so many counties in this state and so many of them are so small that local elections tend to be very personal and once it gets to that level its more difficult for people to abandon a party registration.”

Todd said “McConnell looks poised to win this primary” and asked, “Is this going to be a microcosm of anything in the national environment, or do you think this is simply going to be a referendum of McConnell in the fall?”

Cross said he thinks it will be largely a referendum on the senator. “It is a challenge for him because his approval ratings are so low, though they’ve ticked up a little bit in recent weeks now that he’s had some positive advertising on to remind people what he’s done.”

Todd asked, “Is Alison Lundergan Grimes a candidate that can win state wide on her own or is she going to need a big anti-McConnell vote, even Republican crossover, to pull this off?”

Cross said, “If McConnell didn’t have the kind of approval ratings he did, so low, then you wouldn’t give her much of a chance. She’s an appealing candidate, she’s managed to unify the various segments of the Democratic party, and there’s a great dislike among Democrats for McConnell and they finally think they have a candidate who can beat him." 

While polls have showed both candidates with small leads within the margins of error, Cross said Grimes faces a challenge in turning out Democrats, because in Senate races in Kentucky, "when the president's not on the ballot, the turnout rate tends to be 15 points below that in presidential years.”

Cross said Democrats had higher turnout than Republicans in Senate races until the advent of President Obama, who has "been bad for the Democratic brand" in Kentucky and depressed Democratic turnout. Obama is McConnell's prime target in the general election.

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