Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Grimes campaign stresses importance of quarterly campign-finance reporting deadline tonight

Part of a Grimes campaign email
With the quarterly deadline for campaigns to report financial contributions, the Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign has been ramping up their fundraising efforts as the deadline nears. Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports,"In the 72 hours prior to the midnight Tuesday deadline, Grimes sent at least 10 fundraising emails, some arriving in inboxes less than two hours apart." Youngman went on to quote a Grimes campaign email: "This deadline matters. After today, we'll make our final decisions about how to invest our resources and put ourselves in the best position to win on November 4th." Grimes has raised less money than Sen. Mitch McConnell, whose allies are on target to spend $20 million on his behalf.

McConnell ad questions Grimes's attendance record; Democratic Senate committee starts ads

As a new month begins, so does a new advertiser . . .
  • Today Sen. Mitch McConnell started a television commercial saying that his opponent isn't showing up for work, backed up with a press release with a link to a Washington Free Beacon video of an encounter between her and Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Sam Youngman's questions yesterday about the topic.
  • "Democrats aren't giving up yet," The Washington Post reports in its "Read In" morning roundup. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will "start its first independent expenditure advertisements on behalf of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes on Tuesday. They're spending $295,000 this week and about $300,000 next week on Lexington and Louisville broadcast. Combined with Grimes' own spending, Democrats will be outspending Republicans about two to one this week." The first ad attacks McConnell as a creature of Washington who has voted six times to raise his own pay.
  • An article by Chris Cillizza, Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan of the Post lists the 13 Senate races they consider the most likely to switch parties. The McConnell-Grimes race dropped to No. 13, from No. 11 on the previous list, making it the least likely competitive race to switch control. The writers say Grimes's chances of winning "seem to be fading" partly because "her gun ad backfired," and "was trumped by a commercial McConnell ran a day later," giving a tough reply and mocking her. –Anthony Pendleton
  • Forbes magazine reports how Facebook analysts use data to predict a number of aspects of people's lives. One of the things they can predict is which candidate will win elections based on how many likes he or she has. According to a post on the Government and Politics on Facebook page, 82 percent of Senate candidates in the 2010 midterms who had more likes won their race. McConnell's Facebook page has almost twice as many likes as Grimes's page, nearly 152,000 likes to her almost 89,000. Such data do not reflect the engagement of people with such pages. –Anthony Pendleton

Monday, September 29, 2014

McConnell flips, says he would allow wage vote; his friends spend heavily on TV; Patterson sues KET

As we hit the five-weeks-to-election mark, Republicans raise the ante . . .
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell released a one-minute television commercial today with a moving narration from Dr. Noelle Hunter of Morehead, whose daughter was abducted and taken to Africa by Hunter's ex-husband. Hunter says McConnell helped get her daughter back and took a personal interest in the case. The ad seems to appeal to women, whose votes have been more up for grabs than those of men. "The commercial seeks to both humanize McConnell and to show that he is effective — two central goals in the home stretch for an incumbent whose personal favorability ratings lag behind the state’s partisan lean," James Hohmann writes for Politico.
  • Two political committees closely tied to McConnell "are poised to spend nearly $20 million on television advertisements to sway Kentucky voters," The Associated Press reports. "That's a staggering amount for a single race and a textbook example of the use of outside money in a tight contest. The effort began more than a year ago. But the majority of the advertising by the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition and Kentuckians for Strong Leadership has aired since McConnell and Democratic rival Alison Lundergan Grimes won primaries in mid-May. . . . A spokeswoman for Grimes says McConnell's millionaire and billionaire cronies have targeted the race more than any other, but predicts they will fail."
  • Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service reports that McConnell said Friday that if he becomes majority leader "He will impose order on the way the Senate functions, reinvigorating the committee system and allowing members to file amendments and cast votes on bills," including an increase in the minimum wage. "Those comments might be viewed as contrary to others McConnell has made," including a meeting of conservative campaign contributors, where he said “We’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage.” Ellis writes, "McConnell bristled when asked if those comments conflicted with his assurance that he’d restore order to the Senate." He cited a January speech in which he said senators' constituents should “know where we stand on the issues of the day, regardless of whether the majority party thinks those issues are worth debating or voting on.” Asked if that meant he’d allow votes on such things as the minimum wage, he replied “Yes.” That is "the exact opposite of what McConnell told the Koch brothers and their allies," MSNBC's Steve Benen writes.
  • Today Alison Lundergan Grimes's campaign launched #AlisonCares, "a campaign initiative that will continue the campaign’s overwhelming online engagement with grassroots supporters," the campaign said. The candidate's husband, Andrew Grimes, does the first video. "Grimes' social media effort is an effort to reach out to non-traditional voters who don't get news and information from television and to let them know what she will do in the Senate if successful in ousting McConnell," writes Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal. "It's pushing the ads to voters using Facebook and Twitter."
  • Libertarian candidate David Patterson "has asked a federal judge to order Kentucky Educational Television to include him in the station's televised debate on Oct. 13," AP reports. "His lawsuit alleges KET officials are excluding him from the debate because of his political views—something the U.S. Supreme Court has said public broadcasters cannot do." AP tightened its qualification requirements in July, before Patterson gained enough signatures to get on the ballot but after his effort was publicized.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Roundup: With just over five weeks to go, polls and media illustrate Grimes's challenge

Things don't seem to be looking up for Alison Lundergan Grimes . . .
  • "Is Grimes campaign sputtering in final stretch?" asks the headline over Joe Gerth's Sunday column in The Courier-Journal. Gerth notes independent polls showing the Democratic nominee trailing Sen. Mitch McConnell by 4 to 8 percentage points in recent weeks, but suggested that the Grimes poll showing her leading by 1 point could be valid because "the campaign has been micro-targeting young voters who don't have a strong voting record but who have come out to vote at some point over the last few years" and could be including more of them in its polling.
  • "Grimes's biggest problem may be that she's not just battling McConnell but she's also battling the super PACs and special interest groups that are on the air backing McConnell and attacking her in greater numbers than ever," Gerth writes. "She's now seeing ads against her by the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, the National Rifle Association and a federal credit union political action committee. Kentuckians for Strong Leadership and Rove's Crossroads GPS have also bought ad time in the state" for McConnell. So has the National Association of Realtors.

McConnell relies more on PACs, other big contributors; Grimes gets more from small givers

About 85 percent of the $37 million in identified contributions for the Senate race has come from outside Kentucky, Tom Loftus reports for The Courier-Journal after an exhaustive analysis of their finance reports.

Sen. Mitch McConnell gets much more from political action committees of Washington lobbying interests, and much less from Kentuckians small contributors whose names don't have to be disclosed because that had given less than $200 before June 30, the end of the last finance reporting period. Another period ends Tuesday, with a report due Oct. 15. However, because senators have resisted making their Federal Election Commission reports electronic, data from the last reporting period won't be available until several days after that deadline.

The totals reported by Loftus include money given to two independent PACs, one supporting McConnell and a smaller one supporting Grimes, and McConnell's personal PAC. They did not include the Senate Majority PAC, which the Center for Responsive Politics says has spent $4.3 million attacking McConnell.

"McConnell, who started raising money shortly after his last re-election six years ago, is getting big money from the Washington network of PACs and lobbyists, Texas and New York," Loftus reports. "Grimes, who entered the campaign in July of last year, gets support from the California film industry, but also New York and Washington." However, McConnell raised more from California, $1.7 million, than Grimes.

The Courier-Journal's package includes an interactive table to look up contributors and their contributions.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Grimes opposes gun-show exemption, calls for discussion on legalizing pot, won't answer '94 query

A rolling roundup as we head into the weekend . . .
  • "A week after running a dramatic TV ad in which Alison Lundergan Grimes said she disagreed with President Barack Obama on guns, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate told a radio interviewer Thursday she would work to close a loophole that allows private gun owners to sell guns at gun shows without a background check," writes Adam Beam of The Associated Press. "I believe it is worth having the discussion to actually work to close the gun show loophole that we see," Grimes told Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio. She said she opposes two gun measures Obama supports: "a ban on assault weapons and a proposal to make it more difficult for people to inherit guns from their parents and grandparents," Beam reports.
  • In the same interview, Grimes said elected officials should discuss legalizing marijuana: "I would want to have the discussion, and I think it's worthwhile to bring the experts together and talk about the reclassification, especially for medical purposes." Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, "Grimes criticized Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell for not realizing the 'economic benefits' the state of Colorado has enjoyed after legalizing recreational use of marijuana, adding that she's 'in favor of having the discussion, especially to reclassify the use of marijuana.' . . . McConnell's Senate office said in a statement later Thursday that 'Senator McConnell is strongly opposed to legalization of marijuana'."
  • "The interview was among the most substantive she has given during the election, often limiting reporters to just a question or two here and there, during which she doesn't stray from what often sound like scripted answers," writes Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal.
  • "Grimes refused to say Friday how she would have voted on an omnibus crime bill in 1994 that would have pitted her support for the Violence Against Women Act against her opposition to a provision that banned the sale of military-style assault rifles," Gerth writes. "Grimes' campaign has criticized Sen. Mitch McConnell for his vote against the crime bill, characterizing it as a vote against women. McConnell has said he opposed that legislation because it included the assault weapons ban and other provisions that were added in the House and not because of the domestic violence language."
  • On WVLK in Lexington Friday morning, McConnell told talk-show host Lee Cruse, “I’m against legalizing marijuana. Certainly it’s not in the same category as heroin, but I think to begin … to sort of send the message that we’re giving up, you know, that this is just the way it’s going to be, then one thing leads to another and pretty soon … you completely transform your society in a way that I think certainly most Kentuckians would not agree with.” For a story from Roll Call, click here.
  • Grimes has been airing 60-second radio ads blaming McConnell for "the high abuse rates of heroin, meth and prescription drugs in Kentucky. It’s a fresh line of attack that could enter the TV war," Politico reports. In the ad a narrator, says of McConnell, "He refused to support a bill to crack down on heroin trafficking, saying that he doesn’t take positions on state legislation. Really? He thinks the only solutions come from Washington?" Grimes endorsed the 2014 heroin legislation, which "would have increased penalties for people who sell heroin while increasing treatment options for users." The Paducah Sun said in an editorial that Grimes's attack was a stretch, because "When McConnell was asked about it by a radio station, he replied, 'I don't generally take positions on issues in Frankfort. I work in Washington.'" Politico reports, "The ad ends with the narrator saying Grimes will fight the drug epidemic in the Senate 'by working to create jobs, increase funding for treatment and securing our borders'."
  • The Credit Union National Association has joined the ranks of lobbying interests running television commercials for McConnell; the ads hail him as a friend of small business.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NRA ads example of record outside spending; Grimes ad brackets what she's for with whom she's against

A busy Wednesday with less than six weeks left until the election:
  • "The National Rifle Association has reserved $11.4 million for its initial fall advertising campaign and will begin airing its first TV commercials," reports James Hohmann of Politico. The NRA has reserved $1.4 million of time in each state. "In Kentucky, the initial buy is $330,000" to help Sen. Mitch McConnell. "The two have traded gun-themed ads in recent days," notes Hohmann. UPDATE: The TV ad appears to be aimed at women. It uses a female spokesperson who advocates the right to buy the weapon of your choice and concludes, "Alison Lundergan Grimes won't protect your rights. Defend your right to self-defense. Defeat Alison Lundergan Grimes." The ad appears to have no basis in fact.
  • Guns have been a "hot accessory" during this election season nationally, not just in Kentucky, reports Jaime Fuller of The Washington Post. "Most of the close races this year also take place in states where presidential picks tend to go red," she writes. "Add millions of dollars of outside spending to the demographics and general midterm muck." Kentucky analyst Al Cross told her campaigns use guns because for some voters, "It's a touchstone issue . . . a way to evaluate politicians."
  • "With 43 days still to go until Election Day, outside spending has now surpassed the mark for most money ever spent in a midterm election," reports PBSNewshour. According to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, "the $228 million (and climbing) spent by outside interest groups" is the most spent in any election with the exception of the 2012 presidential election. Kentucky's total of $15 million (pro-Democrat $5 million, pro-Republican $11 million) is tied for second with Iowa. North Carolina's had $22 million.
  • Grimes has  a new 30 second-television ad showing her talking to an enthusiastic crowd about the main issues she plans on tackling if elected, with jabs at McConnell at the start and finish.   
  • Grimes released a web ad Wednesday to counter an heavily aired attack ad from the pro-McConnell Kentucky Opportunity Coalition saying she supports amnesty for undocumented immigrants. The ad "features Republican U.S. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina speaking in favor of an immigration reform bill that passed the Senate, without McConnell’s support, last year," reports Kevin Wheatley of cn|2's "Pure Politics." In the ad, McCain denies that the bill would grant amnesty. Meanwhile, the KOC started an ad similar to the first one.
  • Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has released a Senate forecast model that combines hundreds of opinion polls "with historical and demographic information to calculate odds for each Senate race." They estimate the probability that each party will control the Senate. He estimates that McConnell has an 85 percent chance of winning, and that his most likely victory margin is 5 percentage points. The model forecasts that Republicans have a 58.5 percent change of winning the majority, in which case McConnell is expected to become majority leader.
  • Alexandra Jaffe of The Hill writes, "The Kentucky race could be slipping away from Democrats." Recent polls have all shown Grimes lagging behind McConnell, leaving Kentucky Democrats concerned that she let McConnell define her before she could define herself, and that a new strategy is called for. They says she needs to be less rehearsed and scripted, Jaffe writes, and "It’s known in Kentucky political circles that Grimes’s father, former state Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan, has had an outsized influence on her campaign, one that some Democrats say has been to the detriment of her overall strategy."
  • The Lexington Herald-Leader's Sam Youngman discussed the irony of McConnell being President Obama's "Kentucky candidate" when it comes to battling the self-styled Islamic State. This is seen as a disadvantage for Grimes, since the Bluegrass Poll showed only 28 percent trusted her more on foreign policy. "Trouble in the Middle East benefits McConnell," said University of Kentucky political-science professor Stephen Voss. "Kentucky voters trust him, and the Republican Party in general, more on foreign affairs." He added, "Syria draws out the focus on foreign policy, and prevents Grimes from pivoting attention toward economic and domestic issues that would help her with Kentucky voters." Last week, Grimes's campaign told The Associated Press she would have voted for Obama's proposal to arm and train Syrian rebels only because it was part of a spending bill, and otherwise "would only vote for arming and training Syrians if there is compelling evidence that they are trustworthy and effective."
  • Grimes offered an opinion piece to The Courier-Journal naming the "six big things" she plans to tackle "on Day One" if she is elected: creating jobs and raising the minimum wage, ending tax benefits for moving jobs overseas, protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare, championing equal pay for equal work, sponsoring legislation to provide access to jobs for veterans, and reducing student loan debt in Kentucky. The Louisville newspaper has asked Sen. Mitch McConnell to contribute a similar piece.
  • Grimes's campaign stepped up its attacked on McConnell for siding with the coal industry instead of coal miners on issues of mine safety, extending it to McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, who was labor secretary under George W. Bush. "Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton said that Chao's tenure as head of the Labor Department, which includes the Mine Safety and Health Administration, was a disaster for miners," reports Dave Jamieson for The Huffington Post. The campaign noted that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently released data which found "a nasty form of black lung disease has rebounded to its highest level in decades in Central Appalachia, which includes Kentucky," Jamieson writes. "Workplace safety advocates agree with the Grimes campaign that Chao's Labor Department was cozy with the coal industry it was tasked with policing."
  • Adam Beam of The Associated Press writes that the heavy Senate spending is affecting other candidates' tactics. "Republican candidates in some of Kentucky's most contested races are pooling their money to run joint TV ads as they seek to win control of the state House," he reports. The Center for Public Integrity released a new survey revealing that Kentucky ranks next to last in "the amount of TV ad spending for state races," Beam writes. The center used research from Kantar Media/CMAG which tracks political advertising and offers estimates of the money spent to air each spot; it can be viewed here. This data does not include all political ad spending, leaving out radio, online and direct mail. TV spending in state races is expected to increase over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Where the race stands, six weeks before the election

By Anthony Pendleton and Megan Ingros
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
Information for this story was also contributed by Paige Hobbs, Cheyene Miller and Tyler Spanyer.
In less than two months, Kentucky voters will head to the polls to vote in the election for the U.S. Senate. Incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell is facing off against national Democratic newcomer Alison Lundergan Grimes.
This is arguably the most important and most-watched race in the nation. McConnell, 72, is the Senate minority leader, meaning he’s the top official of the party that has fewer members in the Senate. He is expected to become majority leader if the GOP wins enough seats to take control of the chamber.
Grimes, 35, would be Kentucky’s first female senator, and the state’s first Democratic senator since 1999. She is Kentucky's secretary of state – a position she won in 2011, her first elected public office.
             As the state’s chief election officer, Grimes got the legislature to approve changes to help overseas military voting, but the new law does not allow soldiers to vote electronically, as she wanted. Grimes also started a program that allows victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to "remove their addresses from public voter registration records in an attempt to stay safe from their abusers," as described by the Lexington Herald-Leader.
             McConnell says his leadership job puts him in the middle of every big decision in Washington, and that he will be even more powerful, as majority leader, if Republicans take control of the Senate. Grimes wants McConnell’s long history in Washington to be viewed as a liability, by painting him as an architect of Washington gridlock.  
             Over the course of his nearly 30-year Senate career, McConnell is best known nationally for his fights against limits on campaign contributions and spending. In a secretly recorded talk in June, he said the 2001 passage of the McCain-Feingold law limiting donations to political parties was “the worst day of my political life.”
             McConnell’s big issue in this race has been coal, blaming Environmental Protection Agency regulations for the loss of mining jobs in Eastern Kentucky. Disinterested observers have noted other factors, especially cheap natural gas that has displaced coal as an electric-generating fuel.
             McConnell has identified Grimes with President Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky, based largely on her statement during her 2011 campaign that she supported the national Democratic platform. That seems to be working for him, as he has built leads in coal-bearing Eastern and Western Kentucky.
Grimes has replied with an ad saying “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.” She also talks about coal miners’ safety and health, and her campaign has called McConnell’s record on those issues “deplorable.”
             The underlying issue is jobs. Kentucky’s unemployment rate remains higher than the rest of the country, and both candidates promise to promote job growth in the state.
Grimes has tried to make much of McConnell’s remark, when asked in Beattyville what he would do to bring jobs to Lee County, that “Economic development is a Frankfort issue. That is not my job.” McConnell has said he was in Beattyville to discuss jobs, and did so in a speech after the reporter left.
Grimes has focused on economic issues such as equal pay for women -- but has been unable to keep a clear lead among female voters – and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over three years, from $7.25.
McConnell, citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office, has said raising the wage to that level would cost half a million jobs, but has also said there might be circumstances in which it could be raised, after the economy improves more.
McConnell wants to repeal the federal health-care reform law while Grimes wants to delay its coverage mandate and make other changes. She says McConnell’s approach would risk the coverage of 521,000 people who have obtained it through the state exchange established under the law.
On immigration, Grimes supports the bipartisan, comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate and would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. McConnell has said only legal residency is needed to attract needed workers, and immigration reform should be done through separate bills after the border is secure.
Grimes and McConnell have had one joint question-and-answer session, before directors of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation. KET will host a debate between them Oct. 13. The debate will not include Libertarian David Patterson, a 43 year-old Harrodsburg police officer who didn’t get his name on the ballot until August.

Title trips Trump's tweet

Billionaire Donald Trump "mistakenly referred to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's possible new job title as 'speaker'," Jim Carroll of The Courier-Journal reports. "That Trump did it on Twitter got considerable notice, especially since McConnell was in New York to meet with The Donald." The tweet read, "Why would the people of Kentucky want a rookie Senator– they have Sen. Mitch@McConnellPress who may be next Speaker & bring $'s to KY?" If re-elected, McConnell could become Senate majority leader. Only the House has a speaker. The tweet was later deleted, but we got a screen grab.

A father, fees, fines and a front page

This item is based on submissions from students in the Covering the Senate Race course.

Jerry Lundergan, father of Alison Lundergan Grimes, refused for years to pay various fees and fines on property he owns with his daughters -- 1 percent each, he told Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader. The newspaper described that as a "small stake" in its headline at the top of Sunday's front page.

Lundergan told Youngman that Grimes was unaware of any fees or penalties, and "If I truly believed your intent was to create a story about me and the former Continental Inn property, this would be a non-issue; however, I know that the outlying intent is to try to embarrass or link Alison Grimes to a piece of property." He said she was not involved in his decision to pay the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

The 1,778-word story described Lundergan's battle with the government over "more than $20,000 in storm sewer fees and fines" since he bought the property in 2005 and demolished the hotel. After getting discounts the city called "unprecedented," Lundergan made his first payment in June and a larger, second payment the day after an opposition-research firm working for Sen. Mitch McConnell asked for a city records on the matter. Youngman reported that McConnell's campaign gave the records to the newspaper, which then got "similar records" on its own.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Roundup: Dueling polls; TV and Internet ads from NRA

One day's roundup rolls into another, the news is so heavy . . .
  • Dueling polls: One taken Sept. 8-12 for the Reuters news service by Ipsos shows Sen. Mitch McConnell leading Alison Lundergan Grimes 46 percent to 42 percent, with 5 percent picking another candidate and 6 percent saying they didn't know how they would vote or refusing to say. The poll report includes an interesting and colorful word cloud illustrating verbatim responses (click image for larger version). A more recent survey Sept. 13-16 by Florida-based Gravis Marketing for Human Events, a conservative magazine, showed McConnell leading 52 to 42. A Gravis poll in July had them tied at 45.
  • The Reuters-Ipsos poll showed that a marginal plurality of registered voters, 38 percent, identified themselves as Republicans, to 35 percent identifying as Democrats. That's unusual for a Kentucky poll, but this could turn out to be an election that realigns some voters' party identification, especially because of President Obama's unpopularity.
  • Richard Cowan of Reuters explains how McConnell has tried to soften his "dour public persona."
  • Nick Storm of cn|2 examines how Grimes might still be able to pull off an upset.
  • Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville reports in a tweet that the National Rifle Association is spending $220,000 on "new Internet advertising" in the race. An NRA television ad against Grimes is running on Lexington stations.
  • In an editorial article for The Courier-Journal, Grimes indentifies "six issues she'll tackle on Day 1." The Louisville newspaper says (only in its print edition, at this writing) that McConnell "has been offered an opportunity to write a similar piece."
  • Martha Layne Collins, who was Kentucky's first and only woman governor (1979-83), is promoting the idea of Grimes as the state's first woman senator as chair of a group called Women for Alison. Collins recently did a recorded call for Grimes.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ad ties Grimes to Buffett, blames him for plant closure; senator hit for absences for other events

A rolling roundup as we head through the weekend . . .
  • Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a "super PAC" supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell, is starting a 60-second radio ad attacking Alison Lundergan Grimes for a fund-raising event, the invitation for which said billionaire Warren Buffett would participate by conference call. The call was canceled, apparently after Breitbart.com reported Buffett's role, and a further report noted the decision by one of the companies he owns, Fruit of the Loom, to close a plant in Jamestown with 600 employees. The ad stretches the truth, making it appear that Buffett was to be at the event and personally closed the plant, adding, "Buffett destroyed 600 families to make a buck." Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton told PoliticoPro that Buffett "was invited by a host who has a personal connection" with him. "However, our campaign made clear that we did not think it was appropriate. We agree with Buffett that millionaires and billionaires should pay their fair share in taxes. However, Alison strongly disagrees with him on the outsourcing of good Kentucky jobs — just as she disagrees with Mitch McConnell's record of voting for tax breaks that encourage companies to send jobs overseas." UPDATE, Sept. 23: KSL says the ad is running in the Lexington and Bowling Green media markets, and addition "rural radio in that region of Kentucky."
  • A new Grimes ad redoubles her attack on McConnell's lack of attendance at Senate committee meetings, saying he missed some to attend a lobbyist's fundraiser and appear on two television shows and skipping a meeting on rural jobs to toast China's vice president for "China's great achievements. And the rest of the time, he created gridlock. Thirty years is long enough."

    The issue is similar to the one McConnell used to unseat two-term Democrat Walter "Dee" Huddleston in 1984, missing votes to make speeches for money. But that attack didn't take hold until McConnell and ad consultant Roger Ailes used the famous hound dogs to look for Huddleston. A McConnell ad replying to the first ad on this issue is still running, claiming his "voting attendance" is 99 percent. However, that's for floor votes, not committee meetings.
  • Former two-term state auditor Crit Luallen is being heard in a recorded "robocall" for Grimes, which is going to more than 100,000 households, Norton said. A tagline after Luallen's 40-second message says it is paid for by the state Democratic Party but is authorized by the Grimes campaign. UPDATE, Sept. 22: The campaign says former Gov. Martha Layne Collins was heard in robocall that went to more than 200,000 voters.
  • Kevin Wheatley of cn|2 has a pair of stories looking at the potential and pitfalls of the Oct. 13 KET debate for Grimes and McConnell.
  • Grimes's ad showing her shooting a gun and saying "I'm not Barack Obama" was "a colossal misstep" because it gave McConnell another opportunity to air a reply ad hammering on her endorsement of the national Democratic platform, Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader said on KET's "Comment on Kentucky" Friday night. He noted that on Monday, McConnell against voted against paycheck fairness for women, one of her key issues: "Her own campaign got them off message."
  • On the front page of Sunday's Herald-Leader, Youngman has a story headlined "Grimes owns small stake in company city threatened legal action against over unpaid fees, fines." Her father, Jerry Lundergan, said she owns a 1 percent interest. He paid part of the amount after the threat, and most of it the day after a Republican-oriented research firm requested records about it.
  • Herald-Leader columnist Larry Dale Keeling says it's too late for Grimes to campaign on the health-reform law, and doing it now would look panicked and desperate.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Campaign ads return to Medicare; Grimes opposes bill to arm anti-I.S. Syrians; parties send mail pieces

The ads are so thick, at times they're running back to back . . .
  • "Alison Lundergan Grimes said Thursday she would vote against arming and training Syrian forces combating the Islamic State," Phillip Bailey of WFPL reports. "The Senate is scheduled to take up a vote on the measure this afternoon . . . Grimes said in a campaign statement she backs military action but could not support the measure until trust between the U.S. and Syrian rebels is clearly established."
  • Grimes has a new one-minute TV commercial featuring her grandmother, Elsie Case, talking about how the grandfather's stroke affected her family's finances and claiming that Sen. Mitch McConnell voted to increase seniors' out-of-pocket medical costs. The McConnell campaign says the claim is false, citing fact-checkers' disputation of Grimes's first Medicare ad in July, but The Courier-Journal's Joe Gerth notes, "The claim made in the ad is similar to, but not the same as the claims made in ads that were debunked by non-partisan fact checkers." The votes cited were procedural votes on budget bills.
  • McConnell responded with an ad about his help to a Laurel County constituent who was having a problem getting Medicare to pay bills.
  • Gerth examines the ads from McConnell and Grimes featuring guns. "This isn't the first time Grimes and McConnell have sparred over guns," Gerth notes. "Grimes criticized McConnell after his appearance at an NRA event in March when he walked to the lectern brandishing a musket, an award for outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn, over his head. . . . She challenged McConnell to shoot with her on a firing range — a challenge to which he never responded. McConnell has refused to say if he owns a gun." Grimes's ad tries to separate herself from President Obama, and McConnell's reply ad notes that she endorsed the Democratic Party's platform when he was its nominee. "The Grimes campaign notes that she never specifically endorsed any of the provisions and, in fact, has consistently opposed Obama on them," Gerth writes. McConnell is also running a radio ad with essentially the same message.
  • Fact-checkers have found fault with many ads, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, offering a roundup of some of their latest reports.
  • The National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee is running a campaign of 30-second television commercials promoting Sen. Mitch McConnell as "a fighter for the middle class." PACs of lobbying organizations can give only $10,000 per election cycle ($5,000 each for primary and general elections) to candidates for the Senate or House, but there is no limit on what they can spend on advertising, and a meaningful statewide TV buy costs at least $200,000 a week. For a table of all reported spending in the race, from the Center for Responsive Politics, click here. UPDATE, Sept. 20: The Realtors are also sending a direct-mail piece advocating McConnell's re-election.
  • The Kentucky Democratic Party is mailing an attack on McConnell's committee voting record ("skipped 93% of his senate committee meetings in the last five years") and his April statement that it wasn't his job to bring jobs to Lee County. (The McConnell ad that says his voting record is 99 percent was based on floor votes, not committee attendance.)
  • The Kentucky Republican Party is mailing an edited copy of Politico pages with the story about Grimes not mentioning coal at a June 9 fundraiser with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The envelope includes a printed note with what appears to be McConnell's handwriting, saying, "Really sums up the whole race." The same handwriting appears on the page: "Grimes said she'd stand up for us. But she said nothing."
  • AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka "said Wednesday Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race is a top priority for organized labor that could define the country’s direction over the next two decades." Phillip Bailey reports for WFPL.
  • Gerth writes about neo-Nazi write-in candidate Robert Randsell.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Roundup: Dark-money PAC says it'll spend almost $1 million on ad attacking Grimes for backing 'amnesty'

So far, it's mainly about money and advertising . . .
  • A super PAC called the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition says it will spend $980,000 in one week, a very heavy buy, airing a television commercial that attacks Alison Lundergan Grimes for supporting the Senate-passed bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, calling it "amnesty." The KOC, which is called a "dark-money" outfit because it does not disclose its contributors, has been the largest buyer of advertising in the Senate race. Sen Mitch McConnell "has yet to hammer Grimes on this issue in his paid advertising, but their stances on the topic were among their clearest differences during a Kentucky Farm Bureau forum last month," James Hohmann of Politico notes.
    The bill "did not contain anything as sweeping as [the] dictionary definition of amnesty ... The act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals," writes Glenn Kessler, "The Fact Checker" for The Washington Post. He also notes that the bill was "written by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans," not President Obama, and that another group affiliated with GOP strategist Karl Rove ran an ad last year supporting similar legislation: "It's enough to give politics a bad name."
  • Following a Grimes ad in which she repeatedly shoots a gun, and a response ad from McConnell showing Obama doing likewise, the race will have some ads that are really about guns, from the National Rifle Association. It will be "a mix of TV, radio and digital ads," like those to be run in Georgia, Iowa and Louisiana, Hohmann reports. "In Kentucky, the initial buy is $330,000."
  • The Credit Union National Association PAC is running 60-second radio commercials in which people identified as small-business owners praise McConnell for his work and say they are voting for him.
  • McConnell's campaign said Grimes is raising money with billionaire Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Corp. owns Fruit of the Loom Inc., which is closing its plant in Jamestown, costing the Southern Kentucky town 600 jobs. Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton said the claim is inaccurate: "Warren Buffett is not attending or participating in any event with Alison." The McConnell campaign responded by supplying a PDF of an invitation to an event tonight, which says Buffett will participate via conference call. Norton replied 50 minutes later, "That is an error that has since been corrected. Buffett is not participating in the event or attending." McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore retorted, "Everything that Kentuckians fear about Alison Lundergan Grimes is illustrated perfectly in today's deception about Warren Buffett. Grimes is perfectly willing to raise money with an Obama billionaire who just killed 600 jobs in Kentucky until she gets caught by the media, at which time she lies, gets busted, then claims she made an 'error'."
  • Robert Ransdell, who is running a write-in campaign for the Senate opposing Jews and saying he is the candidate for white people, was stopped from speaking today by University of Kentucky staff who said his remarks were "highly objectionable," especially for high-school students who were attending the annual Constitution Day observance of the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications. Alan Lytle of WUKY has a report. (Lytle photo: UK staff member interrupts Ransdell)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

To Grimes ad, McConnell quickly counterattacks

A busy Tuesday . . .
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell has a new ad, responding to Alison Lundergan Grimes' ad distancing herself from President Obama.
  • Grimes's ad "is a continuation of what has become a central theme of Grimes' campaign: Telling voters who she isn't instead of telling them who she is," Sam Youngman writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "For more than a year, Kentuckians have heard Grimes say in every conceivable way that she is not McConnell, with cursory efforts to introduce herself or what she stands for — a couple of bio ads and a jobs plan short on specifics. . . . Meanwhile, McConnell's portrayal of Grimes as an appendage of Obama found a receptive audience in the eastern and western parts of the state, and polling shows that McConnell has amassed enormous leads in those regions."

    Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/09/15/3431013/sam-youngman-does-alison-lundergan.html?sp=/99/164/329/#storylink=cpy

    Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/09/15/3431013/sam-youngman-does-alison-lundergan.html?sp=/99/164/329/#storylink=cpy
  • The "99 percent" voting record referred to in another McConnell ad is for Senate roll calls, his campaign says. The ad is a response to a Grimes ad saying he has missed 93 percent of Senate committee meetings since 2009.
  • "Kentucky is arguably one of the health law’s biggest early success stories," but "There is little evidence that the expansion of health coverage will help Kentucky Democrats in this fall’s midterm elections," Abby Goodnough writes for The New York Times. "Despite his unyielding attacks on the law, Mr. McConnell also takes positions that suggest he knows it would be difficult to dismantle. He has hedged on whether he would take away Medicaid from new enrollees and suggested — without explaining how — that the Kynect marketplace could survive even if the law was repealed."
  • The "hedged" line is based on a statement McConnell made to Times national political correspondent Jonathan Martin, who reported it in a collection of leftovers from reporting for his recent Times Magazine profile of McConnell: "When I pressed him about the politics of taking away Medicaid from those individuals that now have it, he suggested that was unlikely – even while still faulting Beshear for the decision. 'I don’t know that it will be taken away from them,' McConnell said of the expanded Medicaid coverage. Speaking about Beshear and Kentucky’s state government, he added: 'They’ve made the decision to expand it, they’re gonna have to pay for it.'"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Roundup: Bill Clinton blasts McConnell in Iowa; Post downgrades race to tie for last among possible flips

If the candidates don't make news, their friends and observers will . . .
  • Former president Bill Clinton, who has made two campaign trips in Kentucky for Alison Lundergan Grimes, took it to Iowa yesterday, letting loose on Sen. Mitch McConnell at retiring Sen. Tom Harkin's last annual steak fry. He ridiculed McConnell's statement at a meeting of major Republican funders that "the worst day of my political life" was in 2001, when a law putting new limits on campaign finance was signed. Mentioning 9/11 and "the financial meltdown," he said of McConnell: "And what about in his native Kentucky? Seventy percent of the coal miners losing their jobs before the EPA ever said a word, with no strategy to put them back to work in other ways? How could you possibly say that the worst thing that ever happened to you was not being able to black-bag unlimited amounts of money in politics, when all of these things happened to Americans?" Jim Carroll's Courier-Journal story is here.
  • The Washington Post has again downgraded the Kentucky Senate rate in its occasional ranking based on the estimated likelihood that a seat will change parties. It is now tied for last among the top 12 races. Under the bylines of Chris Cillizza, Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan, the Post reports: "A look at the polling of late in the race . . . suggests that the incumbent has opened up a mid-single-digit lead. That agrees with what strategists are seeing in unreleased data. McConnell’s team always insisted that once he united Republicans behind his candidacy, the numbers would shift toward him."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

As observers suggest different strategy for Grimes, new ad shows her saying she disagrees with Obama

New ads make news . . .
  • Alison Lundergan Grimes has started a television commercial in which she personally makes explicit her differences with President Obama while she takes series of gunshots at clay pigeons and some verbal ones at Sen. Mitch McConnell. Grimes says "I'm not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA," the Environmental Protection Agency. She says McConnell "has done next to nothing" to save coal jobs. The 30-second spot ends with a still photograph of McConnell holding up a rifle at a Conservative Political Action Committee event this spring and Grimes saying "Mitch, that's not how you hold a gun." Earlier, she says "Mitch McConnell wants you to think I'm Barack Obama. Mitch is the same guy who thought Duke basketball players were UK." That's a reference to an early McConnell ad that used an incorrect photograph.
    UPDATE, Sept. 15: Grimes's campaign says the ad started Monday, but at least some stations started it Sunday. McConnell's campaign issued a press release noting that Grimes has raised money from and with supporters of new gun control measures.
  • Bluegrass Rural, a super PAC with an Oakland, Ky., address, has bought some 60-second radio ads attacking McConnell for his votes for trade agreements and oil companies and against a 2005 bill to buy more armored equipment for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democratic activist Matt Barron of rural Massachusetts, who is involved in the effort, said the group was spending "four figures," or less than $10,000. His press releases say the trade and oil ads begin Monday on stations in Owensboro, Madisonville, Hartford, Glasgow, Bardstown, Liberty, Russell Springs, Mannsville and Mount Sterling. The military ad will run on stations in Lebanon Junction and Vine Grove, near Fort Knox; and Hopkinsville and Cadiz, near Fort Campbell. UPDATE, Sept. 20: Berry Craig writes about the PAC on Hillbilly Report.
  • Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service writes of Grimes: "A plurality of respondents said they don’t know enough about her to form an opinion – providing McConnell with the opportunity to define her as 'Obama’s candidate.' . . . Maybe over the next two months Grimes needs to persuade undecided voters she’s more than just not McConnell."
  • "Grimes might need campaign reset, observers say" is the headline over Joe Gerth's story in The Courier-Journal, which notes that the Bluegrass Poll "has seen her position erode by about 1 percentage point a month." The story quotes Democratic consultant Danny Briscoe as saying that Grimes needs to push a populist message and consider endorsing "the more popular parts of the Affordable Care Act." Al Cross explores the advantages and disadvantages of the latter idea in a column published online Saturday and in print Sunday.
  • Gerth reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is objecting to KET's tightening of requirements for inclusion in its Oct. 13 Senate debate, which had the effect of exclusing Libertarian David Patterson. A KET spokesman said that was not the reason.
  • Grimes doesn't support "fast track" trade authority for presidents, which McConnell favors, Kevin Wheatley reports for cn|2's "Pure Politics." Grimes told him that she appreciates business interests' “feeling and need to have fast-track approval because Congress isn’t working,” trade agreements “should be fair, especially for our American workers.” Wheatley notes Grimes is supported by labor unions, which oppose fast-track. "Grimes said in a statement emailed to Pure Politics after Saturday’s event that she would evaluate the final proposal 'to see if it is good for Kentucky workers and businesses based on these principles: Will it give Made in the USA goods and services a fair shot of getting into foreign markets or will barriers remain? Will new trading standards be strong enough on labor and legal requirements, or will they be like Chinese standards: filthy factories, sweatshop labor, and stolen patent rights? Will the U.S. and other like-minded countries be setting the rules on trade and commerce, or will it be taking the rules created by countries — like China — with command and control economies?'"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Both candidates have shortcomings with voters in poll

By Cheyene Miller and Tyler Spanyer
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
Information was also gathered by Paige Hobbs, Megan Ingros, Anthony Pendleton, Ben Tompkins and Brenton Ward.


Alison Lundergan Grimes is struggling to become familiar even to her fellow Democrats, but Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell may be losing touch with voters who have elected him to 30 years in the Senate, according to some Kentuckians who said they plan to vote in the Nov. 4 election.

Those were two findings of students in an advanced journalism course at the University of Kentucky, who recently had telephone conversations with some of the voters who were polled and agreed to follow-up interviews.

Some voters still don’t know who Grimes is, or what she stands for. “I just don’t know anything about her,” said a fellow Democrat, 49-year-old John Bartley of Owensboro. “With Senator McConnell you know what you are getting. Experience.”

Grimes must limit her losses among Democrats like Bartley, because polls indicate McConnell will do better among Republicans than she will among Democrats.

But McConnell has his own problems with voters like Chris Mason, 45, a Republican and member of the U.S. Army from Corbin, who said in the poll that he was undecided, and reiterated that in the interview.


“Typically I vote Republican,” Mason said, “but obviously I'm not all that wild about Senator McConnell.”

Mason also criticized Grimes, saying her television commercials have lacked substance. “The ads she's putting out aren't really doing much for me,” he said. “What I'm interested in is how is she going to help fix the problem? If she can't articulate to me how that problem is going to be fixed, then it'll be difficult for me to give her my vote.”

Grimes's self-promotion problem has allowed McConnell to paint her as an agent of President Obama, a tactic that appears to have worked on some Kentuckians. Some voters, like Janice Hirth of Covington, are purely basing their decision on their dislike of President Barack Obama.

“Senator Mitch has done a great job of connecting her with President Obama, who I really don’t like,” said Hirth, a Republican. “With nothing else to go on, I am using President Obama as my selling point.”

But some voters say McConnell shares blame for the recent gridlock in Washington. Democrat Michael King, 61, of Newport, said that McConnell “hasn’t shown enough leadership in Congress,” and “is part of the leadership that has caused the gridlock in the House and in Congress.”

Some Republicans say that, too. George Manning of Danville said he's voting for Grimes. “I’m registered Republican but I usually will pick a candidate by their issues, but this time, in that race, it’s simply because I don’t like him,” he said. “He does not have a reputation for bipartisanship, and there’s too much division between the Republicans and Democrats.”

Manning told the poll that he feels only neutral about Grimes, though: “I’m really not for her as much as I am against him,” he said. “I just don’t want to see him get it in there anymore. He’s made up this deal about war on coal and there’s not a war on coal, there’s a war on clean air.”

That's a minority opinion. The poll found that 75 percent of the self-described likely voters in the election believe there is a war on coal, making it one of the few issues in the race that seems to unite voters, even outside the state's two coalfields.

“I'm for Mitch McConnell,” said Republican Betty Bowling, a 70-year-old retired schoolteacher from Barlow.  “I appreciate that he's for coal in Kentucky.”

Bartley, who said he has worked as a coal-mine operator for almost 20 years, was quick to point out that despite being a registered Democrat he wants what’s best for his area and his family. And for him that means a more secure coal industry, and a vote for McConnell. “He understands how important coal is to us in Western Kentucky.”

In Eastern Kentucky's Wolfe County, conservative Democrat James Porter, 85, told the poll he was undecided but said in an interview that he is voting against Grimes rather than for McConnell because he fears Grimes will fail to support the Kentucky coal industry.

Some voters are going with a third-party candidate: Libertarian David Patterson, a Harrodsburg police officer, who got 5 percent in the poll to 46 for McConnell, 42 for Grimes and 8 percent undecided.

“I don’t know anything about Mr. Patterson [but] I used to be a supporter of Mitch McConnell and he voted for several things that upset me,” said Mary Dean, a retired registered nurse. “But then there’s Grimes and I absolutely refuse to vote for anybody that is going to support Obama. So that leaves me with this unknown fella, Mr. Patterson.”

Mason showed interest in Patterson, but thinks it would be a stretch for him to win: “He's probably got some fairly decent ideas, but unfortunately, in terms of where the two-party system is, I just don't think he's going to get very far.”

The Bluegrass Poll is conducted by Survey USA for The Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader, Louisville's WHAS-TV and Lexington's WKYT-TV. It was conducted Aug. 25-27. The poll's sponsors provided the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications the answers from, and contact information for, voters in the poll who agreed to give follow-up interviews to reporters or student journalists.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Voters are down on McConnell but haven't warmed up to Grimes, interviews with poll respondents illustrate

Kentucky voters don't care much for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, but see no better option in the Nov. 4 election for the U.S. Senate, according to the latest Bluegrass Poll and follow-up interviews by students in the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications.

The Bluegrass Poll is conducted by Survey USA for The Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader, Louisville's WHAS-TV and Lexington's WKYT-TV. The poll sponsors agreed to give Associate Professor Al Cross contact information for the poll respondents who were willing to grant follow-up interviews, and worded the questionnaire accordingly. The students are in a special reporting course taught by Cross and his co-instructor, Bill Goodman of KET.

The poll, taken Aug. 25-27 and published almost two weeks ago, showed McConnell leading Grimes, 46 percent to 42 percent. For a podcast story on the voter interviews, by student Ben Tompkins of Prospect (right), in a 6-megabyte mp3 file, click here.

A text story on the interviews will appear later.

McConnell ad lauds deals; he touts bill for veterans, topic of ad targeting him; Grimes ad gets low mark

A rolling roundup as we head into the weekend . . .
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell has started a new TV commercial touting his negotiation of budget agreements as Senate minority leader, with a series of laudatory remarks from a wide range of sources, including liberal commentator Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball."
  • McConnell, who is being attacked in a TV ad for not supporting a bill to improve veterans' benefits, announced that a bill he co-sponsored to help increase their cost-of-living adjustments has passed the Senate. A press release said he was one of 15 co-sponsors, and voted recently against a reduction in COLAs that was authorized in the December 2013 budget agreement. "He later introduced a measure to reinstate this full benefit and voted for legislation enacted in February 2014 that reinstated the full COLA for all military retirees," the release said.
  • Politifact found more fault with a long-running Grimes ad, this time with its assertion that McConnell voted "three times for corporate tax breaks that sent jobs overseas." The fact-checking service of the Tampa Bay Times says the ad is "mostly false" because tax law allowing deductions for business moving expenses does not specifically promote outsourcing, and McConnell cast three procedural votes that blocked bills that "would have given a tax benefit to companies that insource jobs and denied an already-existing tax break to companies that outsource them."
  • Grimes criticized McConnell for blocking a proposed constitutional amendment that "would allow Congress and state lawmakers to override recent Supreme Court decisions that have struck down campaign-finance laws," as described by Politico. In a press release, Grimes said "Sen. McConnell remains more concerned about the whims of millionaires and billionaires than Kentuckians struggling to make ends meet. My opponent shamefully admits that the 'worst day' of his political life was not the VA scandal or the Great Recession that saw 118,000 Kentuckians lose their jobs, but rather when Congress decided to limit the money his wealthy friends could give him for re-election."
  • Grimes issued another release saying McConnell had a bad week; among the examples were his refusal to disavow the remarks of a fellow speaker at the Koch brothers event in June, who called the minimum wage fascist and unemployed people lazy. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., mentioned the remarks in a speech during the debate on the constitutional amendment.
  • The remarks are the focus of a new TV ad attacking McConnell, being run by the liberal group MoveOn.org.
  • Grimes has a new web ad, in which voters say "Hey, Mitch," and ask questions about McConnell's voting record.
  • On KET's "Comment on Kentucky," WDRB's Lawrence Smith said Grimes released an internal poll to "calm the nerves" of contributors and "blunt momentum McConnell seems to have."
  • The Kentucky Senate race is no longer in the list of "Top 10 Senate Takeovers" on NBC News' "First Read." It was No. 8 in mid-July. Could have somethign to do with these trend lines of poll averages as drawn by Real Clear Politics:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grimes pollster, using his own model of the likely electorate, says she leads by 1 percentage point

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Faced with a string of public polls that showed her losing ground to Sen. Mitch McConnell, Alison Lundergan Grimes had her pollster announce an internal survey Thursday that showed her ahead by one percentage point, 43 to 42, with 15 percent undecided.

Libertarian David Patterson was not included in the survey, which pollster Mark Mellman said was conducted Sept, 4-7 among a random sample of 800 drawn from a file of registered voters and then modeled to mimic what Mellman believes will be the likely electorate on Nov. 4.

Pollster Mark Mellman
Public-opinion polls typically use random dialing to a set of known telephone numbers, but Mellman, a leading Democratic pollster, told reporters on a conference call that he no longer uses such sampling. He said the error margin of his poll was plus or minus 3 percentage points

In an email, Mellman said the modeling of his sample was based primarily on voting history, with some based on answers to questioned that measured the likelihood of voting and "a tiny bit" on demographic characteristics that can indicate likewise.

He said in the email that the anticipated turnout, based on the model, is "in line with" the 2010 Senate election, in which turnout was just under 50 percent.

Asked on the conference call how Grimes was doing among women voters, Mellman said he didn't want to discuss specific numbers, "but Alison is doing specifically better among women than among men." That being no surprise, he was asked in an email how she and McConnell stood among women. "we are winning women and he is ahead among men," Mellman replied.

Mellman said that among voters who know both candidates, Grimes leads 50 percent to 41 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

McConnell recently posted big leads in Eastern and Western Kentucky. Asked about regional disparities, Mellman said, "That’s sort of a strategic level of information that I think is not fruitful for us to get into here." Earlier, he said, "We don't give out all our results. We give out our good results."

Shortly after the call, McConnell's campaign issued a press release noting that nine consecutive polls has shown the Senate Republican leader ahead, the most recent one taken during the same Sept. 4-7 period by Magellan Strategies. It showed McConnell leading by 8 points, the same margin he posted in an NBC News poll taken Sept 2-4.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Group that favors taxpayer-funded campaigns starts running one-minute TV ad against McConnell

Rolling roundup for Tuesday, Sept. 9:
  • In response to Alison Lundergan Grimes's TV ad saying he should be fired for missing the vast majority of his Senate committee meetings, Sen. Mitch McConnell today started an ad saying he has the power to appoint Senate committee members, "making sure Kentucky's voice is heard."
  • A super PAC called Every Voice Action, which favors public financing of state and federal campaigns, to combat corruption, says it will spend at least $1 million on a "Big Money Mitch" campaign with a 60-second ad about McConnell's statement that "the worst day of my political life" was when President George W. Bush signed into law the McCain-Feingold law, "a bipartisan bill designed to rein in the power of large contributors."
  • In a speech at Hopkinsville, Grimes criticized McConnell for “enacting the arbitrary and really mindless sequester cuts” that could cause a further reduction in military spending, affecting nearby Fort Campbell, Steve Breen reports for the Kentucky New Era. Asked what she would do about sequestration, which is designed to reduce the federal budget deficit, Grimes said, “We need to balance the budget the right way by cutting waste, fraud and abuse, spending smarter and making sure that we end the loopholes for the millionaires and billionaires and the tax breaks that Mitch McConnell has created.”
  • McConnell is back in Washington, where the Senate is in session, probably for the rest of September. Grimes started a web ad accusing McConnell of dodging questions.
  • In a tweet, New York Times national political correspondent Jonathan Martin asks, "If Grimes doesn't start moving #s by end of month, esp in E KY, does she start using Kynect (AKA: ACA)?" Al Cross, editor of this blog, replied, "I think so, and some in her camp have wanted to do that already," adding that pro-Obamacare ads by Democrats in Senate races in Arkansas and West Virginia could "show the way." Kynect is the state health-insurance marketplace created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Race is latest battle in 'long running Mafia war' between parties in Senate, Post reporter writes

Sen. Mitch McConnell's fight for re-election is part of his continuing fight with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, which began when Republicans targeted then-majority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota in 2004, Paul Kane reports for The Washington Post.

"The targeting of Senate party leaders has come to resemble a long-running Mafia war in which rival families are constantly trying to take out the other’s don," Kane writes. "McConnell’s 2014 race marks the fourth time in the past six elections in which a Senate leader is battling for survival, and Reid would make it five elections out of seven should he run again."

The battle has an impact on Senate business, Kane notes: "In June and July, the legislative agenda ground to a halt in the Senate as McConnell repeatedly tried to attach a pro-coal amendment to any bill that moved, forcing Reid to not move any bills that would force vulnerable Democrats from casting a tough vote. Reid is also determined to deny McConnell any victory that would help his reelection effort."

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."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Latest poll: McConnell 47, Grimes 39, Patterson 8; turnout model more likely than in other recent polls

Sen. Mitch McConnell has opened up his first clear lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes, according to a poll conducted for NBC News. McConnell had 47 percent among likely voters while Grimes had 39 percent and Libertarian David Patterson 8 percent. Eight percent were undecided. The last Kentucky poll for NBC, in May, had McConnell leading 46-45.

The latest poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, which applies to each number, so McConnell has a clear lead for the first time. As for Grimes, it's "not looking very good for her," new "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd said as he revealed the numbers. Some results are at http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/nbc-poll-gop-senate-candidates-open-leads-key-states-n196956.

NBC headline shows McConnell giving his usual arrival thumbs-up
The survey continued a trend set by recent polls, but had a new piece of bad news for Grimes: The survey's sample of self-described likely voters was much closer to the likely turnout in the race. Among registered voters in the poll, 58 percent said they were likely to vote. Other recent polls in the race have had much higher percentages.

Typically, Democratic turnout falls off in such midterm elections, but the poll found a clear preference for Republicans even among registered voters when the highly unpopular president was included: 44 percent said they would like to see "a Republican majority in both the House and Senate as a check on President Obama in his final two years," while 35 percent preferred "more Democrats in the House and a Democratic majority in the Senate to send a message to Republicans that they need to work with President Obama not against him." Fourteen percent said it doesn’t matter as long as a lot of incumbents from both parties are thrown out of office. The error margin for the sample of registered voters is 2.8 percentage points.

Some other results:
McConnell impression (fav-unfav) 45-48 (RVs 43-48, residents 40-48)
Grimes impression (fav-unfav) 41-43 (RVs 39-41, residents 36-39)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Only N.C., Ga. have had more television advertising in Senate races; McConnell's edge is more than 2 to 1

A rolling, updated Thursday-Friday roundup as we head toward the weekend . . .
  • More money has been spent on television advertising in Kentucky's Senate race than in any state this year except North Carolina and Georgia, according to data compiled by Kantar Media/ Campaign Media Analysis Group and the Center for Public Integrity. And in terms of total ads, shown in the chart above, Kentucky has seen more than any state but North Carolina. "Outside groups have outspent candidates and parties—$6.9 million to $4.9 million," Rebecca Ballhaus reports for The Wall Street Journal. "Republican candidates, committees and groups have spent $8.1 million on TV ads in the race, compared with $3.7 million spent by Democrats and affiliated groups. Mr. McConnell alone has spent $2.3 million, just above the $1.9 million his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, has paid out so far."
  • Grimes has a new TV ad, attacking McConnell's poor attendance record at Senate committee meetings, a line she introduced last month. "He only showed up seven percent of the time," a narrator says. "If you did that, you’d get fired. So should he."
  • McConnell has a new TV ad, noting Grimes's support for President Obama's 2008 election, and 2012 re-election "after all this," a series of bad-news headlines, concluding, "Is there any doubt how she'd vote in Washington?"
  • "McConnell's top adviser said Thursday that the campaign has no knowledge of subpoenas reportedly issued in an Iowa bribery investigation that seek information about McConnell's former campaign manager," Sam Youngman reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "McConnell adviser Josh Holmes also said the campaign has no information that indicates its former manager, Jesse Benton, did anything wrong as political director for then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign."
  • "McConnell's evolution from political moderate to hard-line conservative has been driven by an instinct for self-preservation and a desire to win. So says a new and highly critical e-book out Sept. 16 that delves into the life and political back story of Kentucky's most powerful Republican," Jim Carroll reports for The Courier-Journal. "The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell, published by Simon & Schuster, is authored by Alex MacGillis, senior editor at The New Republic," a liberal magazine.
  • NBC News will release a new poll in the race at 9 a.m. Sunday.