Sunday, December 14, 2014

Politico writers on C-SPAN discuss McConnell campaign

John Bresnahan and Manu Raju, Politico correspondents who wrote a long story about Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election victory, discussed his campaign Sunday night on C-SPAN's "Q and A" with Brian Lamb. Some tidbits:

McConnell had a preliminary game plan for the race all the way back in 2010. When faced with the possibility of a primary challenge from millionaire Matt Bevin, his consultants showed Bevin's consultants ads they would run, and did run the day Bevin filed his candidacy.

"Think about that," Raju said. "No one had ever heard of Matt Bevin in Kentucky and Mitch McConnell took him seriously enough" to make a six-figure ad buy on the first day of the race.

On the other side, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and her father, Jerry Lundergan, met with movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg before she became a candidate, seeking wanted assurances of money.

The morning of the day Grimes entered the race, she told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that she wasn't running, then met with supporters and announced. From the start there was a disconnect between her and Guy Cecil, executive director of the DSCC.

Grimes wasn't a good candidate, the reporters said, though not in so many words. "She was never able to really define herself," Raju said. "It was not clear what she stood for, what she actually believed."

McConnell campaign manager Josh Holmes has said that Grimes's refusal to say whether she voted for President Obama sealed her fate. "Who do you think advised her to do that?" Lamb asked.

"Everybody denied it was them giving her that advice," Raju replied. "It was a really curious decision." He said that when he asked Grimes in January if she would vote for Obama again, she replied  "Your facts are mistaken" but wouldn't explain herself.

Bresnahan said, "Democrats up on the hill were just flabbergasted that she would say something like this. . . . "I've talked to some African American lawmakers who were kind of incensed by the whole thing." As for McConnell, "I'm surprised he didn't start laughing in the middle of that debate."

Grimes's repeated jabs that McConnell had grown wealthy in office "got under his skin," Bresnahan said. McConnell's campaign produced an ad showing McConnell shopping at Kroger and driving a modest car but didn't use it because a focus group didn't believe it.

The program also included two segments of an interview Brian Farkas of C-SPAN did with McConnell two years ago but has never aired. (It will soon on C-SPAN3, Lamb said.) In one segment, he talks about Henry Clay, author of major compromises over slavery before the Civil War.

Lamb asked if McConnell will be a compromiser as majority leader. "That's going to be the big question," Raju said: how much he tries to unite his caucus and how much he tries to attract Democratic support.

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