Monday, September 8, 2014

New York Times analyst sees in polls and coal a clear advantage for McConnell

Sen. Mitch McConnell has established "a clear advantage" in his re-election bid, Nate Cohn of The New York Times column The Upshot writes today: "If there is any plausibly competitive state where we have now have a clear sense of a Senate race, it is Kentucky. A recent set of diverse and high-quality nonpartisan polls and the underlying fundamentals are all in alignment: Mr. McConnell has a clear advantage."

The column's forecasting model gives McConnell a 93 percent chance of winning. "That’s partly because candidates usually win with such a clear lead at this stage, but it’s also because the underlying fundamentals point to a McConnell victory," Cohn writes. "A McConnell defeat would have been all but unprecedented: No incumbent senator who represents the party opposed to the White House has ever lost re-election in a state that leans as strongly against the incumbent president’s party as Kentucky does."

The other big reason McConnell has an advantage, Cohn says, is coal. "The inexorable decline of Democratic standing in coal country has been driven by the collapse of the national Democratic Party in this region, where environmental regulations on coal-fired power plants are deeply unpopular, as are Democratic positions on cultural issues," Cohn writes. "The traditional and narrow Democratic route to victory in Kentucky might not exist anymore, at least for a candidate seeking federal office. Ms. Grimes would need to fare better in the rest of Kentucky than any federal candidate since 1976. Unlike in other states, like Virginia or Pennsylvania, there aren’t many places in Kentucky where Democrats are making gains to counter their losses. In fact, Democrats have generally suffered losses across other parts of the state, including another stretch of coal country in Western Kentucky and the Jackson Purchase."

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