The most recent Bluegrass Poll has found that Mitch McConnell is slightly less popular than President Obama among Kentuckians. (To put that in perspective, in 2012, Obama lost Kentucky by nearly 23 points. This may look dismal, but it’s not so bad when you consider that Congress overall polls as less popular than either cockroaches or colonoscopies…)

It’s been a long time since a Senate leader lost a re-election bid, but independent polls have challenger Alison Lundgren Grimes leading McConnell by 4 points. There’s a lot of time until November, and McConnell will have a lot of money, but his predicament–and his vulnerability–illustrate an increasingly common dilemma for GOP candidates.

Republican candidates have moved so far to the right in order to avoid or defeat Tea Party challengers that they have compromised their appeal even to the less extreme members of their own party. One problem is that, in the age of the Internet, it is no longer possible for either Republicans or Democrats to pander on the “down low” to their respective party bases in order to win the primary and then do a quick pivot to the center for the general election. Every email, every Facebook post and tweet, is forever available to opposition researchers and casual “googlers” alike.

Furthermore, as important as money continues to be, thanks to the Internet, communicating your opponent’s voting history, indiscreet tweets and other political miscalculations is far less expensive than it used to be.

This is a dangerous time for all incumbents. Disgust with Washington is palpable. How citizens’ anger and fatigue will play out across the political landscape is anyone’s guess. Democrats, especially, need to remember the time-honored rule: you can’t beat somebody with nobody–defeating even unpopular incumbents requires a strong candidate. (Speaking of which, Democrats in Indianapolis need a strong mayoral candidate yesterday.)

In Kentucky, Ms. Grimes appears to be that strong candidate. And the “turtle man,” as Jon Stewart refers to McConnell, is definitely unpopular and struggling.

It remains to be seen whether 2014 will be the year that citizens decide they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore–but in Kentucky, at least, prospects for change are looking up.


  1. McConnell was forced by Cruz to behave semi-rationally. He decided he needed the center more than the fringe yesterday. It’s hard to know how that will play out. Mitch may have too much money in the end to be unseated. There is hope though.

    The partisan war forces Democrats into 2 jobs. GOTV and policy. Nothing happens without enough of a majority to enact bills. The Democrats best friend is Tea Party Republican overreach. Embedded in every turmoil is opportunity.

    I suggest looking to North Carolina as an example. In spite of the conservative overreach, there as in Indiana, unprecedented numbers of North Carolinians have mobilized to combat the excess. We too are served best with rational discussion, articulate policy based in values we all understand and broad, consistent, inclusive action. Hoosiers should pay attention.

  2. Whenever Kentucky is mentioned, I have always heard snide or derogatory remarks, but it looks like they are trying. For sure, they’ve passed us on the ACA, and I’ve heard good things about their education efforts. Now, they are seriously discussing the possibility of dumping McConnell. I’m beginning to envision a new state slogan, “Kentucky: We are not Indiana”. or maybe for us, “Indiana: Your old Kentucky home”.

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