Wednesday, November 5, 2014

McConnell scores historic victory; here's how national news media see it (and the Grimes campaign)

Rounding up the national coverage:
McConnell and wife Elaine Chao (Photo: Win McNamee, Getty)
  • Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times captures the broad meanings of the result and packs a lot into 51 words: "Mitch McConnell, the taciturn leader of the Senate Republicans who overcame childhood polio and decades of political conflagrations to become the longest-serving senator in Kentucky’s history, cruised to re-election Tuesday. With his party winning control of the Senate on the same night, he fulfilled his decades-long dream of becoming majority leader."
  • McConnell worked at helping other Republicans get a majority. In early September, he "called a longtime colleague, Sen. Pat Roberts, from his living room in Louisville, furious about the 78-year-old Republican’s fumbling and lethargic reelection campaign," Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa of The Washington Post report in a long story explaining how the GOP won. "McConnell had in his hands a private polling memo predicting Roberts would lose in Kansas — an alarming possibility that could cost the GOP a Senate majority. McConnell was blunt. A shake-up was needed. Roberts unleashed a flurry of expletives at McConnell. Ultimately, though, the ex-Marine gave in" and fired his campaign manager. He won.
  • Rucker and Costa report what close Kentucky observers knew about Alison Lundergan Grimes and her father, Jerry Lundergan: "Although Grimes exhibited strength as a candidate, Democrats in Washington thought her campaign was troublesome. Lundergan, a former state Democratic Party chairman and owner of a catering empire, ran the operation. Grimes prioritized staffers with local knowledge and rejected the national party’s recommendations on hires and advice about messaging. . . . Democrats who had been otherwise impressed with Grimes’s performance were agog at her refusal to say whether she voted for Obama in 2012."
  • Manu Raju and John Bresnahan of Politico also reveal some behind-the-scenes stuff: When Matt Bevin was considering a primary challenge to McConnell, an operative for the senator showed Bevin's top consultant what attacks ads on Bevin would look like. "Bevin didn’t listen. And McConnell went to war. The day Bevin announced his primary bid, the McConnell campaign made good on its threat and aired a six-figure ad buy slamming his new opponent as 'Bailout Bevin,' setting the tone for a primary battle where the tea party candidate never got the traction he needed."
  • In their very long story, Raju and Bresnahan also reflect the view of many observers in Kentucky, that Grimes failed to "take advantage of the McConnell-Bevin primary fight and try to woo disaffected moderate Republicans." Despite Grimes's shortcomings, her campaign manager, Jonathan Hurst, "insisted the outside money that Republican groups spent late in the campaign was the decisive factor, and that Grimes overperformed in 'the worst terrain' of any Senate Democratic challenger. The story also explores the campaign's massive voter identification-and-persuasion operation and the changes made when "senior adviser" Josh Homes moved form Washington to Louisville and effectively became campaign manager.
  • Chris Cillizza of "The Fix" column in the Post explains "Why Mitch McConnell always wins:" He knows his shortcomings, he's always had a good political team; "He's always prepared. . . . He attacks, and doesn't apologize," and "He represents Kentucky," which "has grown more and more conservative."
  • Perry Bacon of NBC News said on this morning's "Daily Rundown" on MSNBC that when McConnell speaks to reporters in Louisville at 2 p.m., "the big thing to watch for" is the set of issues on which he wants to make progress: "Entitlement reform? Is it energy? Is it taxes? Bacon noted that in speaking 50 minutes before Obama is scheduled to appear, McConnell is putting the president in the position of responding to him. "McConnell now is more in the driver's seat."
  • Sarah Mimms of the National Journal writes "What to Expect from Mitch McConnell's Senate." The first big test of his leadership may be extension of the national-debt limit, early in 2015.
  • McConnell is the second Kentuckian to become Senate majority leader, a title that did not exist when Henry Clay dominated the Senate a century and a half ago. Democrat Alben Barkley of Paducah was majority leader from 1937 to 1949, when he became vice president under Harry S Truman.
  • For KET videos of the speeches by Grimes, McConnell and others, click here.

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