Friday, October 31, 2014

National news media taking a final look at the race; Kentucky campuses holding mock election

A rolling roundup as we head into the final weekend . . .
  • "Kentucky's Senate race, one of the most closely watched in the country, boils down to which Washington insider is worse in the eyes of voters:" Sen. Mitch McConnell or President Obama, writes Francine Kiefer of The Christian Science Monitor. Stephen Voss, a political scientist at the University of Kentucky, summed it up for Kiefer this way: "We have an unpopular senator who leads the resistance against an unpopular president."
  • "McConnell’s path to victory runs through the hilly coal fields [sic] in the east, the buzzing sheet metal factories along the state’s southern tier and in the barns leaking with pouring rain in the flat and cow-spotted western farmland," Jason Horowitz of The New York Times writes after traveling with McConnell through those areas. "At the end of his 14 campaign rallies and hundreds of miles lined with falling orange and ocher autumn leaves, Mr. McConnell seemed to have reached a better, less anxious, place."
  • McConnell seems to be a little looser than usual as the race comes to a close. He told 85 business and political leaders at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce meeting, "The American people have seemed to reach the conclusion they have had enough of this crap," meaning "six years of Democratic control of both the presidency and the Senate," reports Amanda Van Benschoten of The Kentucky Enquirer.
  • The Kentucky Campus Compact, comprising colleges and universities in the state, is holding a mock election online. The site also has links to overviews of the race, a voters' guide, the KET debate, a debate fact check, this blog and information about voting, campaign finance and polling places. The site is co-sponsored by the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement at Northern Kentucky University, the Campus Election Engagement Project and the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro.

Issues stories include one on student loan debt

Students in the "Covering the U.S. Senate Race" course in the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications have continued to write stories about issues in the U.S. Senate race, and some have been published by the Kentucky Kernel, the student newspaper at UK. Tyler Spanyer's story about the issue of student loan debt is here; for stories on coal, immigration and the economy and jobs, click here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Final Bluegrass Poll shows McConnell ahead by 5 points, 'devastating news' for Grimes, UK prof says

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell "has opened up a five-point lead over Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes and appears well positioned to win a sixth term, according to the final Bluegrass Poll before Tuesday's election," Sam Youngman reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader, a sponsor of the Oct. 25-29 survey.

"The poll found that 48 percent of likely voters plan to vote for McConnell while just 43 percent plan to back Grimes. Three percent said they are voting for Libertarian David Patterson and 6 percent said they haven't made up their minds," reports Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal, the other major sponsor. "While the results are within the poll's margin of error of 4.1 percentage points, McConnell's lead shows that he has the momentum in the race's waning times. Grimes, meanwhile has gone from being 2 percentage points ahead in the poll to 5 behind."
Herald-Leader graphic
"The Bluegrass Poll has been the one independent source indicating that Grimes might be on target to win this Senate race, so having the numbers turn against her is devastating news," University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss told Youngman. "President Obama is clearly the albatross hanging around Grimes' neck. He is incredibly unpopular in Kentucky, and if anything, in the last several weeks attitudes toward him have only worsened."

"After four Bluegrass polls showed McConnell falling below 80 percent among likely Republican voters, the senator appears to be solidifying his base," Youngman writes. Eighty-six percent now say they will vote for McConnell," up from 78 percent in mid-October.

"The biggest problem for Grimes appears to be the negative ads that outside groups have used against her," Gerth writes. "The poll found that only 37 percent of registered voters have a favorable opinion of her, while 43 percent have an unfavorable opinion of her. That almost mirrors McConnell's 37-44 favorability gap." For the full poll results, click here.

Herald-Leader gives big play to nonprofit's story about 'dark money' group's big help for McConnell

Here's what we have time to post in a whirlwind of activity . . .
  • A nonprofit group that was taken over by a former aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell has aired one of every seven television commercials in the Senate race, most of them attacking Alison Lundergan Grimes, with millions of dollars from donors it will not disclose, the Center for Public Integrity reports, in a story that the Lexington Herald-Leader placed on its front page. UPDATE, Oct. 31: National Journal's Alex Roarty and Shane Goldmacher show how the rules against coordination between such groups and candidates is easily circumvented.
  • NPR reports that conservatives criticized McConnell for telling Neil Cavuto of Fox News that Republicans would not be able to repeal Obamacare because they will not have 60 votes in the Senate. "McConnell said that with a full Obamacare repeal impossible, he would instead push to repeal the law's tax on medical devices — which a number of Democratic senators already support — and to narrow its mandate on which workers must be covered."
  • McConnell primary foe Matt Bevin "came as close as he has to endorsing" McConnell at a quiet gathering of conservatives in Jeffersontown Wednesday night, the Herald-Leader's Sam Youngman reports. "Bevin tried to warm up the subdued audience," saying that any thinking about voting for Grimes should "think again." He added, "There is nothing being brought forward by the Democratic Party in this state that is good for Kentucky. Nothing." Still, Youngman writes, "He continued to be cagey about backing McConnell. . . . Asked after his speech whether that was an endorsement of McConnell, Bevin snapped, 'You've got ears.'"

    Read more here:

    Read more here:
  • Former president Bill Clinton is appearing in Louisville and Ashland today for Grimes. The first stop, at the Muhammad Ali Center, may help Grimes with African American turnout, which some black observers have said might be hurt by her refusal to say that she voted for President Obama; the second one will get coverage from West Virginia TV stations that serve the northern part of the East Kentucky Coal Field.
  • The Economist sums up the race, largely by looking at McConnell as the leader of a potential Senate majority, "as seems likely." If so, "a man few Americans would recognise if he sat next to them on a bus, will be one of the most powerful people in the world," the magazine says in an editorial.
  • Grimes pollster Mark Mellman, asked about the race at Bipartisan Policy Center event today, said "We’re not ahead. But we hope to be on Election Day." U.S. News & World Report's David Catanese notes, "Grimes’ team has furiously fought back at the notion that McConnell has pulled far ahead of them in recent weeks, but has not released its own internal polling by Mellman as it did back in September, when he showed the race tied."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sen. Elizabeth Warren returns; Grimes' ad on Paducah plant faulted; McConnell mum on Social Security plan

The final week begins . . .
Courier-Journal photo by John Sommers
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined Alison Lundergan Grimes for a rally tonight in Louisville, her second visit to the city for at attack on Sen. Mitch McConnell. "They repeatedly slammed McConnell for catering to the wealthy while opposing increasing the minimum wage, for opposing refinancing student loans and for opposing equal pay for equal work," Sebastian Kitchen reports for The Courier-Journal, adding that "a lively crowd of more than 400" was on hand. McConnell's campaign said Warren is wrong for Kentucky, calling Grimes' ties to the Massachusetts senator a "stark reminder of her loyalty to Obama." The campaign said Warren is a supporter of the war on coal, referring to her support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations to limit carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants.
  • MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon reports enthusiasm for Grimes at an event in Calhoun, where "Grimes spelled it out: ‘I don’t have to pay you to be here.’" Carmon noted that "Grimes needs their enthusiasm, and their turnout muscle, if she is to upend the conventional wisdom that McConnell will hold on, and with him Republican control of the Senate." Carmon reports a crowd of of about 100 greeted Grimes in the town of 763.
  • "A new TV ad by Alison Lundergan Grimes that attempts to paint McConnell as uncaring is disingenuous,” The Paducah Sun said in an editorial. “The ad, which began running in the Paducah market a week ago, claims McConnell did little to help workers” at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which enriched uranium for decades. The Sun says no one has worked harder than McConnell to help sick workers and keep the plant open. "Since 1999, Sen. McConnell has secured more than $1 billion in funding for the PGDP and its workers," the editorial said. The Sun goes on to cite numerous occasions of McConnell aiding the plant.
  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee started a TV ad in which retired Louisville teacher Estelle Bayer says McConnell "voted himself six pay raises and made himself a millionaire, and he opposes raising the minimum wage?"
  • The Grimes campaign announced today that Grimes has campaigned in all 120 Kentucky counties, wrapping up with Caldwell (Princeton). We were wondering why she went to several Republican strongholds in the last week or so.
  • McConnell asked TV stations to stop running the Senate Majority PAC ad attacking him on Social Security, contesting its suggestions that he profited from insider trading. WDRB-TV in Louisville, which generally has a conservative editorial policy, pulled the ad but reinstated it, saying it found the assertions to be factual, and other stations are still running it, liberal columnist Greg Sargent reports for The Washington Post. "The dust-up shows that Democrats are pushing hard to make Social Security privatization a sleeper issue," Sargent writes. He notes McConnell senior adviser Josh Holmes told Brian Beutler of The New Republic, "I don't think anyone is interested in reviving the '05 debate," in which McConnell favored privatization.
  • Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service reported after a McConnell rally in Campbellsville, "McConnell evaded reporters’ questions about whether as majority leader he’d support legislation to 'privatize' or change Social Security." On Thursday, "McConnell specifically touted his effort to push President George W. Bush’s plans to reform Social Security in 2005, which would have set up private accounts for retirees,” Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville reported then, adding: "Insider Louisville asked McConnell after the event if he would make a push for such reforms to Social Security if he was elected Senate majority leader and could set the agenda, but he declined to reveal if he would do so."
  • Ellis notes that Grimes says McConnell "supports tax breaks that encourage businesses to ship jobs overseas, but that message won’t get much support at Campbellsville Apparel, a textile company which supplies materials for federal government contracts and which employs a lot of folks who once worked at Fruit of the Loom — a company which moved jobs from Kentucky to Mexico." McConnell intervened to help the firm keep a federal contract, local officials said.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bill Moyers suggests McConnell's campaign and his allies are illegally coordinating their election activities

In the last week, roundups will change often, so keep us bookmarked . . .
  • In an essay titled "How to buy an election," liberal journalist and commentator Bill Moyers questions whether Sen. Mitch McConnell has kept proper legal distance from "a constellation of outside groups" that are attacking Alison Lundergan Grimes in all sorts of advertising. He notes the senator's ties to several people who are playing key roles in those "supposedly independent" campaigns, like the one of the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which has spent $12.4 million attacking Grimes, Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal reports. "Often the sharing of consultants and ad makers means that any 'fire wall' is merely symbolic," Moyers writes. "But there have been no consequences for these potential violations of federal law, because there’s been no enforcement of the law, thanks to partisan gridlock at the Federal Election Commission," fostered partly by McConnell.
  • Both candidates have started the traditional "closer" ads, in which they speak to the camera with a gentler message than most of their spots have delivered. McConnell has some real fun, ending with a bunch of bloodhounds to subtly recall the ads he rode to an upset victory over Democratic Sen. Walter D. Huddleston in 1984. It ends with him laughing, a rarity in an ad.

For an analysis of the Grimes ad, from Susan Davis of USA Today, click here.

  • Joe Arnold of Louisville's WHAS-TV reports on get-out-the-vote operations in both parties that may be the largest ever in Kentucky.
  • "Although they get little attention from candidates, white evangelical Christian voters are likely to be fundamental to any Republican victories in the key Senate races, especially in the South," Alistair Bell writes for Reuters. "Polling data shows evangelicals are more enthusiastic than the general population about the midterms," which Bell says "is striking given that Republican candidates have largely avoided evangelicals' pet topics like opposition to abortion and gay marriage for fear of alienating moderate voters." Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition says his group is doing its "most muscular" turnout operation ever. That includes voter guides like the one at the bottom of this blog post., another pro-McConnell group, also has a guide.
  • The outcome of the race depends on whether voters have less trust in Congress or in President Obama, writes Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times.
  • Ever since Libertarian David Patterson got his name on the ballot, observers have wondered which major candidate he would hurt. Bill Hayes writes on his blog, The Rural Democrat, that it is likely Grimes, if Patterson gets 4 to 5 percent of the vote, because recent polling has shown him gaining support among self-defined independent voters and her losing support among that group.
  • Grimes gets endorsement of two largest newspapers; McConnell backed in Bowling Green, Paducah, N. Ky.

    With only nine days left to decide one of the nation's most intriguing Senate races, Alison Lundergan Grimes has received the endorsement of The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader.

    Grimes picked up the endorsements from the state's largest and predominantly liberal newspapers on Sunday, coming on the heels of Sen. Mitch McConnell's endorsements from the conservative Bowling Green Daily News and The Paducah Sun, as well as The Kentucky Enquirer, an edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer.

    The Courier-Journal endorsement comes after Grimes's interview between with the Louisville paper's editorial board went viral after she refused to say if she voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. Despite what many described as a gaffe, The C-J applauded Grimes for speaking to them: "Ms. Grimes, to her credit, was willing to appear before this newspaper's editorial board, fielding an hour's worth of questions in an interview that was streamed live online and remains archived on the C-J website. She did this fully aware that Mr. McConnell's campaign could — and did — seize on snippets to use in political attacks." McConnell never accepted the paper's invitation to the same sort of meeting, "shielding himself from scrutiny," it said.

    The Herald-Leader cited McConnell's hand in Washington gridlock as the main reason behind its decision: "If McConnell had a better record, he would not have to argue for six more years by obsessively linking Grimes to Obama, who will be gone in two years no matter what."

    McConnell was endorsed Monday by the Bowling Green daily, which said, "In U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., you have a proven leader who puts our state’s interest and needs first. McConnell fights day after day in the Senate against President Barack Obama’s agenda . . . " The editorial went on to mention specific projects in which McConnell has brought funding to the area, and said his influence will be key for Kentucky residents.

    The Paducah Sun published an editorial on October 12 written by publisher Jim Paxton that endorsed McConnell as being the candidate who best represents the beliefs and values of the average Kentuckian.

    Publisher Jim Paxton wrote, "Senator McConnell has a long list of career accomplishments for the interests of western Kentuckians including support for nuclear workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, heavy involvement in the Freedom to Fish Act and establishment of the Clark's River Refuge."

    McConnell is looked upon favorably in Western Kentucky. In last week's Bluegrass Poll his favorable-unfavorable rating was 45 percent to 39 percent, his highest among state regions.

    The Enquirer, which claims enough Northern Kentucky circulation to be the state's third largest paper, cited McConnell's experience, influence and "a thorough command of the policy and security issues the country faces."

    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    Which McConnell would be Senate majority leader: the hard-line party stalwart or the pragmatic negotiator?

    McConnell (Photo by Mark Cornelison)
    In an article appearing in Saturday’s Lexington Herald-Leader, Washington Bureau reporter Sean Cockerham of McClatchy Newspapers asks "which version of" Sen. Mitch McConnell will appear if he wins re-election and is promoted to Senate majority leader.

    Would it be "the pragmatic deal maker, or the partisan whose feuds the past several years with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have helped define the most dysfunctional Congress of modern times?" Cockerham looks at McConnell’s extensive history in the Senate, but focuses more on his recent leadership of the Republican caucus in opposition to President Obama: "McConnell is known as a skilled tactician and, until the election of Obama at least, as more a pragmatist than a partisan."

    That suggests that McConnell has more to gain from his record as a negotiator in 2008 with Reid, and later with Vice President Biden, than as a hard-line party stalwart. However, Cockerham quotes Norman Ornstein, "a centrist scholar on politics and Congress at the American Enterprise Institute," as saying that McConnell's "use of the filibuster as a weapon of mass obstruction" raises doubts about McConnell’s assertion that a Senate led by him would not block amendments in the way Reid has.

    "McConnell laid out a more confrontational vision at a private gathering organized by the billionaire Koch brothers in June," Cockerham notes, using "the spending bill" to targeting the Environmental Protection Agency, Obamacare and financial reform, perhaps under budget-reconciliation rules that block filibusters by the minority. "He'd risk a politically damaging government shutdown."

    McConnell biographer John David Dyche "believes McConnell as majority leader would want to work with both parties to get things accomplished, but that it would be up to the other Republican senators how much he’d be able to do so," Cockerham reports. "He likely would be running a Senate with just a razor-thin Republican majority, riven by internal divisions between tea party acolytes and centrists over issues such as spending and immigration."

    McConnell won't reveal plan for Social Security, loans campaign $1.8 million; absentee votes up over 2010

    Another rolling roundup as we go through the weekend . . .
    • Insider Louisville's Joe Sonka reports on Sen. Mitch McConnell's Thursday speech to the Louisville Rotary Club: "Though he hasn’t mentioned it much on the campaign trail over the past year, McConnell specifically touted his effort to push President George W. Bush’s plans to reform Social Security in 2005, which would have set up private accounts for retirees. . . . Insider Louisville asked McConnell after the event if he would make a push for such reforms to Social Security if he was elected Senate majority leader and could set the agenda, but he declined to reveal if he would do so. 'I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance,' said McConnell. 'We’re not in the majority yet. We’ll have more to say about that later,' assumedly meaning at some point after the election in 12 days. Both McConnell and his opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes have accused each other of hiding the true agenda they would advocate for if elected. McConnell claims Grimes is hiding her support of President Obama’s policies in order to fool voters . . . At a Louisville retirement community earlier this week, Grimes and Congressman John Yarmuth told the seniors gathered that McConnell would push not only to privatize Medicare for future retirees, but start another push for Social Security privatization."
    • The Lexington Herald-Leader has two good stories on the race today: from Sam Youngman on McConnell, the Tea Party and 4th District Rep. Thomas Massie; and from Sean Cockerham on how McConnell might handle the job of Senate majority leader.
    • Renee Shaw of KET did a report for PBS NewsHour on the influence of Obamacare on the race, with strongly contrasting views from both sides.
    • "In the most competitive U.S. Senate races this year, big-money special interests that proliferated after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision are routinely out-muscling and out-messaging the candidates themselves," Michael Beckel of The Center for Public Integrity reports Here are its charts, with the Kentucky race numbers:
    • McConnell is loaning his campaign $1.8 million. A campaign spokesman told Manu Raju of Politico that he is doing so in order to keep his promise to not draw assistance from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, after its Democratic counterpart and Democratic Leader Harry Reid's Senate Majority PAC resumed television advertising in the race.
    • "More people are voting absentee in Kentucky's Nov. 4 general election, a sign the state's closely watched Senate race could be boosting turnout," The Associated Press reports. "The State Board of Elections said 11,089 people have already cast absentee ballots in person at their local county clerk's office as of Monday morning. That's about 2,000 more votes than were cast at this time in 2010, the last time Kentucky had a U.S. Senate race on the ballot. . . .
      Another 7,714 voters have cast absentee ballots by mail, bringing the total to more than 18,100 votes cast so far."
    • "The Fix" column of The Washington Post recently called the race the nation's most interesting, but that didn't get it off the bottom of its list of 13 seats that could change parties.
    • The Faith and Freedom Coalition, the religious-conservative successor to the Christian Coalition, has mailed its voter guide for the race:

    Friday, October 24, 2014

    McConnell ad hits Grimes on restaurant's pay; Reid's PAC hints McConnell was an inside trader

    A rolling roundup as we head into the race's next-to-last weekend:
    • Based on a report by CNN, Sen. Mitch McConnell has started a television commercial accusing Grimes of hypocrisy because she advocates raising the minimum wage while acting as a lawyer for her family's restaurant, which pays its workers $2.13 and hour. That is the minimum wage for tipped workers, a point the report made but the commercial does not use.
    • The Grimes campaign pointed out that one of the young women in an ad McConnell started this week is a University of Louisville student who is registered to vote in Pennsylvania, while the McConnell campaign "said a new ad from Grimes supporters falsely accused the Senate minority leader of using his office to improve his personal investments during the 2008 financial crisis," Adam Beam reports for The Associated Press. The latter ad comes from Senate Majority PAC, overseen by McConnell's chief adversary in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "The ad is based on a 2012 story from The Washington Post that detailed how 34 members of Congress updated their investments during the financial crisis after having phone calls or meetings with Treasury officials," Beam writes. "But the story quotes McConnell's financial adviser saying the four trades came at the suggestion of Merrill Lynch, not McConnell. The story said McConnell never spoke to his financial adviser and does not own individual stocks to avoid the appearance of a conflict."
    • In an entertaining video report for Fusion, Alicia Menendez says the ads have been making more news than the candidates themselves.
    • WAVE-TV in Louisville is asking both campaigns to stop using video clips from its news programs in their commercials. News Director Bill Shory" said the use of his station’s reports in campaign ads have led his viewers to believe WAVE is endorsing one candidate over another," Kevin Eck of MediaBistro reports. In an open letter on the station’s website, Shory said he has received complaints about the candidates' ads and sent letters to McConnell and Grimes "asking them to stop using clips from WAVE in their campaign ads," and saying the station would present "all facts, statements, and coverage truthfully and in the proper context."
    • Eleanor Clift writes for The Daily Beast that in a new video, McConnell "brags about lowering the boom on sexual harasser Bob Packwood. The whole story is pretty different."

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    Grimes ad labeled likely worst of year, as race is labeled the most interesting and she goes off script

    A roundup that relies mainly on the paper the late Ben Bradlee made a leader . . .
    • An Alison Lundergan Grimes TV commercial, apparently limited to coal country, has drawn the highest rank of criticism from "The Fact Checker," Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post. "This particular ad is especially noteworthy because the candidate herself repeats a claim that The Fact Checker has already deemed worthy of Four Pinocchios," Kessler writes. "Not only does she double down on this falsehood, but she makes another highly questionable assertion as well." Kessler, a Cincinnati native, calls that one "nonsense" and concludes, "Grimes puts her own credibility on the line by uttering these recidivist claims herself, rather than relying on an unseen narrator. We realize that the game of politics is sometimes played rough in Kentucky, but this ad is beyond the pale. Indeed, it is likely the worst ad of a nasty campaign year. Grimes should be ashamed of herself."
    • Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a "super PAC" supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell, is running an ad replying to the Grimes ad that accuses McConnell of hypocrisy on immigration even though she supports a conditional amnesty bill much like the one he voted for in 1986. After Grimes is shown endorsing "a pathway to citizenship," a female narrator says, "Alison, that is amnesty." McConnell has run no ads on immigration, leaving the subject to his allies, with whom his campaign is not supposed to coordinate.
    • "Kentucky now has the most interesting Senate race in the country," the Post's Chris Cillizza writes in his column, "The Fix:" "Strategists in both parties who are closely following the race . . . painted radically different views of the race and suggested that one side is going to be very right and the other very wrong in 12 days' time." The main evidence seems to be the re-involvement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Senate Majority PAC. "Most Democratic operatives I spoke to -- though not all -- conceded privately that McConnell was still a slight favorite but that there was plenty of reasons to believe that the race could still be won by Grimes. The DSCC quite clearly saw some data -- or got a phone call from someone (cough -- Bill Clinton -- cough) that persuaded them to re-invest."
    • Dana Milbank of the Post went to the Bowling Green Rotary Club meeting with Grimes and was surprised. "I saw a candidate who was much less cautious and scripted than the one I had been hearing and reading about. It was as if the reduced expectations had liberated her. . . . She took some hostile questions from the crowd, and she gave as good as she got. Then she went outside and did something that, for her, is most unusual: She held a news conference." After recounting that exchange and some with the Rotarians, Milbank concludes, "It’s tempting to wonder how much better Grimes would have done in this campaign if she had shed her crippling caution earlier."
    • Philip Bump of the Post offers a chart that shows one reason Grimes still has a chance: Even though most voters view her negatively, they are even more unhappy with McConnell:
    • George Will, whose column the Post distributes, writes after a visit to Kentucky that the race presents "a constitutional moment that will determine whether the separation of powers will be reasserted by a Congress revitalized by restoration of the Senate’s dignity."

    Both campaigns attack each other's ads on issues of voting rights, women's rights, student loans

    As usually happens in the final two weeks of a tough race, both sides are drawing fire for some of their advertising.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign is expressing outrage at an Alison Lundergan Grimes radio commercial on which former state Sen. Georgia Powers of Louisville accuses the senator of "trying to take the right to vote away from black people," Sam Youngman reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He notes that another ad on black-oriented radio said "McConnell has been leading the Republican effort to take away our voting rights."
    Read more here:

    Youngman reports, "McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore called the ad 'disgusting.' "This is the kind of ad an unscrupulous, losing candidate may have considered running 50 years ago that we all collectively hoped was left in the past,' Moore said. Grimes' spokeswoman Charly Norton said the ads are based on McConnell's 2002 vote against extending voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences and legislation he introduced in 2007 to require identification issued by the government to vote." Norton cited a recent Government Accountability Office report saying such laws reduced turnout among African Americans.

    Grimes's campaign is circulating a column by Steve Benen of MSNBC accusing McConnell of hypocrisy for running a TV ad with several young women saying Grimes "wants me to think that I’m not good enough. That I couldn’t get a job, unless Washington passed more laws. That I can’t graduate college, without raising your taxes. She wants me to believe that strong women and strong values are incompatible. She thinks I’ll vote for the candidate who looks like me. Rather than the one who represents me."

    Benen writes, "This is the sort of ad a politician runs if he’s convinced voters just aren’t very bright. Part of the problem, of course, is that McConnell is a poor messenger for a weak message. He is, after all, the same senator who opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay [Act], voted repeatedly to kill the Violence Against Women Act, rejected the Paycheck Fairness Act, and voted to restrict contraception access." Actually, McConnell voted for the Violence Against Women Act but against a recent version that would have expanded its coverage to immigrants and some incidents on Indian reservations. He said the Paycheck Fairness Act was unnecessary because federal law already band sex discrimination and the new legislation would have encouraged too much litigation.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    Democratic senatorial committee to resume ads; WKU poll shows Grimes voters are heavily anti-McConnell

    It's still a race, but . . .
    • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which dismayed many Democrats last week by stopping its Kentucky advertising, is back in the race, reports Manu Raju of Politico: "The party committee is reserving $650,000 in air time to boost Alison Lundergan Grimes after reviewing recent internal and public polling, a DSCC official told Politico. The polling, the source says, suggested that independent voters are moving in the Democrat's direction."
    • Reid Wilson of The Washington Post writes in his daily "Read In" that Post reporter Paul Kane offers this take on the race: "Alison Lundergan Grimes wins if voters are thinking about Mitch McConnell and his lousy approval ratings. Mitch McConnell wins if voters are considering President Obama and his even lousier approval ratings. In an era of political negativity, there may not be a single race this year that's so dependent on turning attention to the other side."
    • "The Kentucky Senate race comes down this: whether voters are more willing to vote against a Barack Obama who is not on the ballot, or a Mitch McConnell who is," writes Aaron Blake of the Post, citing the Big Red Poll by Western Kentucky University social scientists. The poll was taken over two weeks, ending Oct. 19, so it has no value as a current snapshot, but it does reveal that "very few people are actually voting for Grimes. Rather, 60 percent of Grimes supporters say their vote is more about casting a ballot against McConnell," Blake reports. "Voters for McConnell, meanwhile, are much more likely to say it's about supporting the incumbent (62 percent) than opposing Grimes (33 percent)." Blake wonders "what these numbers would look like if you substituted Grimes's name for another Democrat, President Obama. A recent CBS News poll showed 56 percent of Republicans nationally say their midterm vote will be a symbolic vote against Obama. That doesn't mean equally as many McConnell backers would say their vote is more about Obama than McConnell. But given the tenor of the race and the repeated attempts by Republicans to tie Grimes to Obama (along with her all-too-telling refusal to say whether she voted for Obama), it's clear that the president is a major subplot of this race."
    • Chris Cillizza of the Post answers the most-asked question about the race: Is it over? "There is a scenario by which Grimes wins, but it is not the most likely scenario. (Of the three major election models that aim to predict outcomes, the best chance Grimes has is a 22 percent probability of winning in the FiveThirtyEight model.)"
    • The National Rifle Association is running full-page, color ad in rural newspapers saying that "Mitch McConnell Will Stop the Obama Gun Control Agenda." Here's the rest of the ad:

    Students cover issues in the Senate race

    Students in "Covering the U.S. Senate Race," a special course in the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications, are covering issues in the race between Sen. Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes. To read stories on immigration, health care and the economy and jobs, click here.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    Both campaigns air new ads as Bill Clinton visits W. Ky.

    Rounding up what we can, with two weeks left in the race . . .
    • Making his fifth appearance for Alison Lundergan Grimes, former president Bill Clinton "wowed a partisan crowd in Owensboro, telling more than 3,000 people that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has taken the country down a path of partisan bickering and political infighting and should be tossed out of office," Joe Gerth reports for The Courier-Journal. Clinton "repeatedly harped on the idea that Kentuckians should not vote for McConnell just because they are angry with President Barack Obama, Sam Youngman reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Who ever heard of giving somebody a six-year job for a two-year protest?" Clinton asked. Former Sen. Wendell Ford of Owensboro, "90 and suffering from lung cancer, attended the rally," Gerth reports. For a report from cn|2, click here; from The Associated Press, here. Later, in Paducah, Grimes and Clinton focused on women voters, WPSD-TV reports.

      Read more here:
    • McConnell started two TV commercials using testimonials, one aimed at union members and blue-collar workers and another with young women, targeting Grimes. Grimes also has a new ad attacking McConnell for his votes to raise his own pay and against the minimum wage, and a commercial about the Brent Spence Bridge in Northern Kentucky, accusing McConnell of inaction on the need for a replacement.
    • Both candidates started new ads with African Americans on urban radio stations, Nick Storm of cn|2's "Pure Politics" reports. Sen. Mitch McConnell's ad features Noelle Hunter, who starred in a TV ad about the senator's work to rescue her daughter from Mali; she says she voted for President Obama twice but will be voting for McConnell "and you should too." Grimes's ad has former state Sen. Georgia Davis Powers of Louisville accusing McConnell and Republicans of "trying to take away our right to vote." 
    • The state Republican Party has offered to pay the expenses of volunteers to build crowds on McConnell's campaign tours, The Hill reports.

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    Bluegrass Poll: McConnell 44, Grimes 43, Patterson 5, undecided 8, plus or minus 3.9 points

    Today is the midterm of the semester at UK, so we're cramming a lot of significant material into some short blips:
    • The latest Bluegrass Poll shows Sen. Mitch McConnell with 44 percent, Alison Lundergan Grimes with 43 percent, David Patterson with 5 percent and 8 percent of self-described likely voters undecided. The poll, taken Oct. 15-19, has an error margin of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. "The small shift in McConnell's favor brings the SurveyUSA poll back in line with several others in recent weeks that have shown McConnell with narrow but steady leads," Sam Youngman writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
    • Grimes's revelation of her 2008 primary vote for Hillary Clinton, which critics say undercuts her refusal to say if she voted for President Obama, was broadcast last night on KET, in the "Ballot Bomb" report on young voters by University of Kentucky journalism professor Buck Ryan. His son, Austin Ryan, asked the candidates who got their first vote; Grimes said she wanted to vote for Bill Clinton in 1996 but turned 18 just after the election. "I got a chance, though, to vote for Secretary Clinton in 2008," she said.
    • Also on the half-hour program on KET, McConnell said the biggest issue young voters should be concerned about is the national debt; Grimes says it is student loan debt. She favors a bill to allow refinancing of student loans and pay for it with tax increases on the wealthy; McConnell voted against it.
    • Grimes has campaigned on raising the minimum wage and accused Republicans of sexism. CNN did a story on Hugh Jass Burgers, a restaurant owned by her father, paying $2.13 per hour to tipped employees and the $7.25 minimum wage to others, and using double entendres on its menu.
    • McConnell started a three-day bus tour of Eastern Kentucky; Adam Beam of The Associated Press has a coalfield scene-setter. Grimes toured Louisville and Central Kentucky; here's a report from Nick Storm of cn|2's "Pure Politics."

    Sunday, October 19, 2014

    Roundup: Sunday takeouts, comment and a tour map

    A roundup from Sunday's newspapers and more . . .
    • Jim Carroll of The Courier-Journal profiles Sen. Mitch McConnell, "a hair's breadth away from attaining his life's ambition" of being Senate majority leader. "Should that happen, friends and allies of McConnell see an opportunity for him to remake the Senate."
    • McConnell pitched his leadership prospects to a Republican crowd in Owensboro, Sam Youngman reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "This is not just about bragging rights for me personally, this is about you and whether or not our state is going to be in a very prominent role in setting the agenda,” McConnell said.

      Read more here:
    • The C-J's Joe Gerth writes that if Alison Lundergan Grimes wins, she will owe Bill and Hillary Clinton. He quotes a Grimes remark, during Hillary Clinton's visit to Louisville Wednesday: “Mitch McConnell just doesn’t think that Kentuckians know how to do math. You see, this election is not about who’s in the White House now, the president has two more years. This is a six year term. It’s about the senator who will work the next four years with whoever is in the White House, no matter who he or she might be.” With that, Grimes pointed at Clinton.
    • In other C-J columns, University of Kentucky journalism professor Al Cross writes in his C-J column that Grimes and McConnell are both doing "flim-flam," Grimes in her broadcast ads on immigration and McConnell in their only debate, on what he would do for Obamacare's beneficiaries if it were repealed; and Carroll cites the latter in saying that President Obama has become a liability for both candidates.
    • For the Herald-Leader, columnist Larry Dale Keeling says the news media made "a kerfluffle over nothing," the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's ending of ad buys in Kentucky.
    • Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post can't understand Grimes's refusal to say if she voted for Obama: "The voters who would be alienated by a straightforward answer are probably already lost to Grimes, but I can imagine wavering voters being turned off by her dodginess. Even worse is Grimes’s sanctimonious effort to wrap her evasiveness in patriotic bunting, the 'sanctity of the ballot box' and the privacy protections for voters enshrined in the state Constitution."
    • Grimes made six stops in Eastern Kentucky on Saturday; here's a story from Lana Bellamy of the Ashland Independent. Grimes visited some of the same counties that McConnell will see on a three-day tour Monday through Wednesday, for which he is seeking volunteers to accompany him. Here's a map of McConnell's route and the counties Grimes visited, created with MapQuest and Photoshop:
      The East Kentucky Coal Field generally runs eastward from the Daniel Boone National Forest, the southwest-to-northeast swath of green on the map.
    • Scott Wartman of The Kentucky Enquirer fact-checks "the war on coal." Bret Baier of Fox News did a takeout story on the issue as part of an hour-long package; it airs again Sunday night at 9 EDT.

    Friday, October 17, 2014

    Poll shows McConnell over 50%, another gives GOP apparent historic advantage in voter ID in Ky.

    A rolling roundup as we go into the weekend . . .
    • Sen. Mitch McConnell leads Alison Lundergan Grimes 52 percent to 44 percent in a Rasmussen Reports poll of 1,000 likely voters taken Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 15-16. The automated telephone poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Only 3 percent were undecided, and 2 percent picked another candidate. "Among the 24% who still could change their minds, the candidates are tied at 41% apiece, with 17% opting for a third-party candidate or undecided," the poll report says. "The incumbent is viewed favorably by 49% of all Kentucky voters and unfavorably by 47%. . . . For Grimes, favorables are 46% and unfavorable 50%." In past elections, Rasmussen's results have leaned slightly Republican.
    • cited the poll in raising the changes of a McConnell victory to 78 percent from 73 percent. "A Grimes upset is still plausible, but it’s getting less so by the day," Harry Enten writes.
    • Kentucky Democrats got some bad news from The Gallup Organization, which revealed an apparently historic advantage for Republicans in party identification among Kentucky voters. "When faced with tough choice of voting for either the very unpopular Mitch McConnell or giving Democrats another seat in the Senate, the people of Kentucky seem to have finally accepted they primarily identify with the GOP," writes Jon Walker of Firedoglake.
    • Both candidates are now running television commercials about their work with sexual assault and domestic violence. McConnell went first; Grimes's ad is about the legislation she got passed to allow removal of victims' addresses from voter rolls.
    • Former president Bill Clinton will campaign with Grimes Tuesday in Owensboro and Paducah. McConnell will be on a bus tour through Eastern Kentucky Monday through Wednesday. Grimes will be in several of the same counties tomorrow (Saturday).

    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Clinton-Grimes coverage roundup; McConnell's Obamacare lines in debate get three Pinocchios

    A post-Hillary roundup has plenty of good nuggets . . .
    • Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer reports from Louisville: "National Democrats have gone tepid on her. Progressive groups are attacking her. Latino leaders are condemning her campaign. But there's at least one powerful force in the Democratic Party sticking by Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes: Hillary Clinton."
    • Clinton-Grimes coverage from The Courier-Journal is here; from WFPL, here; from the Lexington Herald-Leader, here; from MSNBC, here; from Politico, here; and from The New York Times, here. UPDATE: Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville has a sharp take.
    • Sen. Mitch McConnell continues to be criticized for his remarks about Obamacare and its Kentucky instrumentality Kynect. Glenn Kessler, writes in "The Fact Checker" column for The Washington Post, "McConnell’s statements make little sense unless he has a specific plan that would allow Kentuckians who currently have insurance to retain it. He relies on narrow technical details that have a ring of truth—the grants for the Web site have ended; the Kynect Web site could continue; Medicaid expansion was a decision by the governor. But he leaves the big picture—What is his replacement plan?—completely empty." Kessler gives McConnell three Pinocchios, which means the statements have a "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions."
    • John Dickerson of Slate finds fault with both candidates' "disingenuous evasions" which were "notable because they seemed so brazen." He concludes, "Unfortunately this is the only time Grimes and McConnell plan to square off. Of course, voters can stop them on the street and ask for clarifications. They’ve got three weeks until Election Day."
    • The Kentucky Senate race is second only to North Carolina in secret contributions to supposedly independent campaigns, Paul Bluemnthal reports for Huffington Post. "The primary backer of McConnell's campaign has been a dark-money group called the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition. The group has spent more than $12 million without disclosing a single donor. It is run by Steven Law, a former aide to McConnell and the head of Karl Rove's Crossroads groups." Such groups "are ostensibly formed to advocate for a social welfare purpose, such as a cleaner environment or -- depending on one's definition of social welfare -- lower tax rates for corporations and the wealthy. Such groups are not allowed to spend the majority of their time advocating for political candidates, although the case of the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition illustrates that this limitation is, at best, difficult to enforce."
    • Democratic women in the Senate are rallying around Grimes, reports Jim Carroll of The Courier-Journal.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    Grimes immigration ad questioned; Obama vote flap, McConnell ad and his lines on Kynect draw fire

    A rolling roundup while waiting for Hillary . . .
    • Former secretary of state and first lady Hillary Clinton will appear for Alison Lundergan Grimes tonight in Louisville. Philip M. Bailey of Louisville's WFPL reports that every county has a sign (right). The campaign says it will videostream the event at Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign spokeswoman, Allison Moore, said in an email, "The only possible reason why Alison Grimes would throw a party for Hillary Clinton but refuse to admit she voted for Barack Obama is that she thinks we're all too stupid to figure out they have the exact same policy views. Instead of highly produced events with celebrity guests, most Kentuckians would settle for an honest answer from Alison Grimes on anything related to the job of a U.S. senator."
    • Pro-immigration groups are calling on Grimes to pull her newest television and radio commercial, in which she says "I've never supported amnesty or benefits for illegal immigrants and I never will" and a narrator uses the term "illegal aliens." Sam Youngman reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader, "After speaking at a Commerce Lexington policy breakfast Wednesday morning, Grimes refused to acknowledge or answer repeated questions about whether her campaign will pull the ad."
    • The ad says, "Only Mitch McConnell has voted to give amnesty and taxpayer-funded benefits to 3 million illegal aliens," as small type notes that was in 1985 and 1986. "Mitch is at the heart of everything that's wrong in Washington, from hypocrisy to greed to gridlock." Viewers may infer that Grimes opposes such measures, but she repeated at the breakfast that she favors a Senate-passed bill that would create "a pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants if "You've got a good job, you have a background check, you learn English, you pay your taxes."
    • An ad McConnell started this week, featuring undercover video of Grimes supporters saying or suggesting that she doesn't really mean what she says about coal, doesn't prove the charge, Robert Farley writes for The ad claims the videos of "Grimes' own staff and donors show Grimes is lying," but there is no proof that the "staff" members are or were.
    • McConnell has a new ad, about his sponsorship of a law that increased funding to expedite DNA testing, with emphasis on its use in sexual-assault cases.
    • Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," is sticking by his remark that Grimes "disqualified herself" by refusing to say if she voted for President Obama, which McConnell is using in a TV ad. Todd told The Huffington Post, "Campaigns that try to make others the issue are usually trying to avoid their own scrutiny. . . . No journalist likes to be used in a TV ad. It is cheap and likely useless."
    • Some observers said Grimes' continued refusal to reveal her vote wasn't as important as McConnell's characterization of Obamacare's Kentucky element as "a website." Danny Vinik writes for The New Republic, a liberal magazine, "You’d expect such a ridiculous argument to be the highlight of the debate with the media quickly and easily debunking it."
    • Ron Fournier of the nonpartisan, middle-of-the road National Journal writes, "What's more disqualifying? A Democrat who refuses to say whether she voted for President Obama, or a Republican who waffles on Obamacare and essentially calls it 'fine'? . . . He can't have it both ways. Uprooting Obamacare upends Kynect. . . . He's playing with the health of 500,000 Kentuckians. He's misleading conservatives who don't think Obamacare is 'fine.' He's a hypocrite."

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee stops running ads in Ky.; Grimes reports $4.4 million on hand

    The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has stopped running commercials in Kentucky, "a severe blow to Alison Lundergan Grimes in her challenge to Republican leader Mitch McConnell," The Associated Press reports.

    "That decision effectively leaves Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes on her own and is rightly read as a sign that national Democrats believe the race is effectively over," Chris Cillizza reports for The Washington Post, noting that Roll Call broke the story.

    "One Democratic strategist closely following the Kentucky race insists that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is still beatable but that Senate Democrats have to prioritize sitting senators at this point in the election cycle," the Post reports. "Another Democratic consultant tracking the McConnell-Grimes contest largely agreed, noting that pulling money out of Kentucky means 'You can play in Georgia, which is within the margin and the trend lines are going the right way, expand buys in Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa and Louisiana, which are all neck and neck, and then gamble on a wildcard like South Dakota.' . . . The reality of the Kentucky Senate race is that the electorate is simply locked in, polarized to the point where persuadable voters are non-existent."

    The committee said in a statement, “The DSCC has now spent more than $2 million in Kentucky and continues to make targeted investments in the ground game while monitoring the race for future investments." The committee didn't start advertising in Kentucky until around the first of October.

    "The ground game" is the effort to persuade and turn out Grimes voters through direct contact, mainly by volunteers. The DSCC is spending $60 million on that effort in 10 states, including Kentucky, MSNBC reports, calling it "a turbo-charged, data-driven ground operation that aims to ensure the 2014 electorate looks more like 2012—which saw massive turnout from minorities and young people—than the Republican wave election of 2010."

    Still, AP's Adam Beam reports, "The committee's decision in Kentucky was in strong contrast to its activities in other states with pivotal Senate races. Democrats continued to spend freely in Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and several other states as they tried to blunt a Republican drive to gain a we're confident our own substantial resources will be complemented by other investments in the closing days as this airtight race goes down to the wireSenate majority in midterm elections."

    The Grimes campaign issued a press release saying it has $4.4 million on hand, "more than any other Democrat in a competitive U.S. Senate race," but spokeswoman Charly Norton said that was its Sept. 30 balance on the quarterly finance report that is due Wednesday. "We're confident our own substantial resources will be complemented by other investments in the closing days as this airtight race goes down to the wire," the release said.

    UPDATE: Sen. Mitch McConnell announced that he raised $3.2 million in the third quarter and entered October with $5.2 million in the bank.

    Coverage roundup: good debate, lots of weaseling; nationals fixate on Obama-vote flap, locals don't

    Debate coverage from all over (recording is now online):
    • The debate was "really good," says John Harwood of CNBC and The Wall Street Journal. Alison Lundergan Grimes "performed very well" for a newcomer, and "Mitch McConnell was the best Mitch McConnell can be. . . . The moderator was also good."
    • Grimes "struck an aggressive pose as she repeatedly interrupted and lobbed attacks at McConnell, who often gave long, lecture-style answers," reports Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
    • Youngman writes for The Daily Beast, "it is still unclear how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would simultaneously reopen the amendment process in the Senate while not allowing votes on 'all these gosh darn proposals' like raising the minimum wage."
    • "McConnell, 72, has been the narrow favorite in the race, and Monday’s debate did not appear to dramatically change that reality," writes Susan Davis of USA Today.
    • Emily Schultheis of National Journal writes of McConnell, "the one area where he stumbled a bit was over a series of questions about Obamacare and its impact in Kentucky."
    • "Grimes may turn some environmentalists’ heads after she put forth a strong defense of climate change science," Politico's Alex Guillen writes. James Hohmann of Politico has 10 key quotes.
    • "Each ducked a high-profile question," Grimes on her recent presidential votes and McConnell on climate change, reports Francine Kiefer of the Christian Science Monitor.
    • The candidates "reached absurd heights in the art of weasel-wording," writes New York Times editorial writer Juliet Lapidos.
    • The debate "was notable for the contentious nature of the exchanges but not the content of the discussion," writes Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal. "Viewers . . . saw the two candidates stick to the talking points they both have been focusing on for the past year and a half — but they were also treated to several volleys that indicated the two really don't like one another."
    • The race "has become deeply personal after months of attacks in a race focused on character," writes Alexander Bolton of The Hill. "McConnell painted his opponent as a novice who does not understand the nuances of policymaking, while Grimes characterized him as a self-dealing insider and obstructionist.
    • The Washington Post offers video of "the most heated moments of the debate."
    • Liberal columnist Greg Sargent of the Post writes, "If Grimes were to admit now that she voted for Obama, that would not only give McConnell the sound bite he wants; it would show her backing down in the face of his attacks after waffling and appearing too weak to stand behind her own vote."
    • On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Howard Fineman of Huffington Post said of Grimes's stance, "
      It's both embarrassing and question-raising for her to do that. . . . There are all kinds of ways you can answer that question and hit it out of the park." Fineman said Grimes "should answer so that people like us would stop talking about it. ... She did a petty good job in that debate. ... That was all obscured."
    • Actually, local news coverage downplayed the Obama-vote issue. However, "There were almost no memorable moments in the debate, and that could be bad for Grimes," Perry Bacon Jr. writes for NBC News.

    Coal, jobs, health care dominate the only real debate

    By Brenton Ward, Cheyene Miller, Tyler Spanyer, Ben Tompkins and Megan Ingros
    University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
                LEXINGTON, Ky. – Coal, jobs, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were the major subjects of Monday night’s debate between Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.
    Grimes, McConnell and moderator Bill Goodman before air.
               The hour-long debate on KET reflected the course of the race, in that Grimes spent most of her time attacking McConnell, and McConnell did likewise with President Obama, trying to link Grimes to him.
                The candidates swerved around many questions, avoiding definitive stances and leaving Kentucky voters unclear of the specifics.
                Perhaps the best example of that was discussion of the health-care law, generally known as Obamacare.
    McConnell reiterated that he wants to repeal it “root and branch,” but he was pressed to say what he would do with Kynect, the state health-insurance exchange created under the law, which he repeatedly called a website.
    Asked what would happen to Kynect if the law were repealed, he said, “The state exchange can continue it if they want to. . . . States can decide whether or not to expand Medicaid, and our governor has decided to expand Medicaid.”
                Obamacare funds subsidies for private insurance bought through the website. It pays the entire cost of Medicaid for newly eligible patients through 2016, falling to a floor of 90 percent by 2020.
                Pressed about whether he would support the continuance of Kynect, McConnell said, “That’s fine, yeah, I think it’s fine to have a website.”
                Grimes, asked how she would vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare, said, “There is work that we have to do to fix the Affordable Care Act, but we have to have a senator that actually realizes what the realities are here in Kentucky, and the fictional fantasy land that Mitch McConnell is in, doesn’t show the statistics here in this state.”
                Earlier, she said, “This is a matter of standing up for 500,000 Kentuckians” who have obtained coverage through Kynect.” She added, “I will not be a senator that rips that insurance from their hand.” But she offered no new specifics on how she would “streamline” the law.
                The debate was dominated by economic issues, which for both candidates included support of Kentucky’s declining coal industry in the face of Obama administration regulations that would stop construction of coal-fired power plants by putting limits on carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
    Asked if the U.S. should take the lead in fighting climate change, McConnell said, “My job is to look after Kentucky’s coal miners.”
    Grimes said, “I recognize, unlike Senator McConnell, the realities of global warming, but I do believe we have to take a balanced approach” that protects jobs and “leave this world a better place.”
    Grimes noted her endorsement by the United Mine Workers of America and said she supports measures to improve coal mine health and safety and guarantee miners’ benefits.
                McConnell said that Grimes’s first vote in the Senate would be to re-elect as majority leader Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who he said has blocked all legislation aimed at the anti-coal regulations. He said Grimes broke her vow to raise the issue at a fund-raiser Reid held for her.
                Grimes has said she raised the issue with Reid privately. Last night, she said, “I did have very strong words for Senator Reid regarding an energy policy that he is misguided on.”
                McConnell said in the debate’s opening exchange, “My opponent has spent most of her time trying to deceive everybody about her own views.” Regarding her widely reported refusal to say whether she voted for Obama, even though she was an Obama delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, he noted that some Democratic officeholders chose not to attend the convention.
                Moderator Bill Goodman asked Grimes why she has been reluctant to say how she voted. She replied, “Bill there’s no reluctance. This is a matter of principle. Our constitution grants, here in Kentucky, the constitutional right for privacy in the ballot box, for a secret ballot.”
    Grimes said that as secretary of state, Kentucky’s chief election official, she was obligated to protect such rights. “I’m not going to compromise a constitutional right . . . to curry favor with one or the other side, or members of the media.”
    McConnell replied, “There’s no sacred right to not announce how we vote.”
    The candidates argued some facts in the debate, and their campaigns kept arguing afterward.
    Grimes said a bill to allow refinancing of student loans was bipartisan, but McConnell said it was not. Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst noted afterward that there were 58 votes to end McConnell’s filibuster against the bill; the Senate has 55 Democrats.
                Grimes repeatedly advocated raising the minimum wage, but McConnell said that would cost too many jobs in a soft economy and said it would be better to expand the earned-income tax credit for the working poor. Hurst said McConnell introduced legislation to cut the credit in 2010.
    McConnell senior adviser Josh Holmes disputed Grimes’s charge that McConnell had voted to keep tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas: “That’s received the worst possible false rating in almost every publication that’s reviewed it, yet she continues to talk about it.”
    The candidates agreed on at least one thing, that the greatest accomplishment of the next six-year Senate term would be to bring more jobs to Kentucky. McConnell said he would be better able to do that because “there’s a great likelihood I will be the leader of the majority,” while Grimes said noted that she had released a jobs plan and McConnell hadn’t.

    Debate didn't appear to have much impact on voters

    By Paige Hobbs
    University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
                The only true debate of Kentucky’s U.S Senate race didn’t appear to change many votes, judging from interviews immediately after the debate with voters who said in the recent Bluegrass Poll that they had chosen a candidate but might change their minds.
    And supporters of Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has had some difficulty sending a clear, positive message to voters, said her appearance did nothing to change their minds, either.
    Steve Clevinger of Kenton County, a retired postal worker, sad in the recent poll that he was for Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, but wasn’t sure if he had made up his mind. After the debate, he sounded more certain.
    “If I had to pick a winner in the debate, I would say it was Mitch McConnell,” Clevinger said. “It didn’t seem that Secretary Grimes could address a subject without attacking the senator. His name came up more often than her own policies.”
    Grimes repeatedly called in the debate for raising the minimum wage, but Clevinger said, “If she had her way, what she would be doing is creating a permanent underclass.”
    Grimes supporter Alma Irvin, a retired business supervisor from Hopkinsville, thought differently.
    “She sounded like she’s for the people and wants to help the people, overall I think she won the debate,” Irvin said. Asked her overall opinion of McConnell, she said “It seems like he’s been in there so long that he’s lost interest.”
    Danny Stone of Paducah, a retired coal miner who said he has black-lung disease and got no help from McConnell’s office, said in the poll that he was for Grimes but could still change his mind. After the debate, he said “She’s more agreeable and aggressive. . . . She’s willing and able to work in a constructive manner with Republicans.”