McConnell looks forward to 'respectful exchange' with Grimes; DSCC now calls race a 'toss-up'

07/01/2013 04:04 PM

Minutes after Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced her intention to run for Democratic nomination for the 2014 U.S. Senate race, players on both sides of the aisle began to weigh in on what happens next.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee officials released a statement quoting internal poll numbers they say points to McConnell’s vulnerability:

“The Kentucky Senate race is now a toss up. Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular incumbent in the entire country. He is a relic of the past and a symbol of everything that is wrong with Washington. Kentuckians want a change. According to DSCC polling done by Fred Yang of Hart Research, McConnell’s job approval rating is net -27% with 62% of Kentucky voters disapproving of his job performance to just 35% approving. Just 28% of registered voters said they plan vote to reelect McConnell.”

The DSCC statement went on to say the race will be a “long road”:

“We expect to preserve our majority next year by defending strong incumbents and playing offense in Kentucky and Georgia. We have a long road to travel, but Republicans are making our job a little easier each day, failing to recruit strong candidates and expand the playing field.”

The Kentucky Democratic Party was more enthusiastic about Grimes’ announcement, as KDP Chairman Dan Logston said in a statement that he is “thrilled.”

“I am thrilled that Secretary of State Allison Grimes has entered the race for the United States Senate. Secretary Grimes will be a strong, positive candidate for the Democratic Party who will work for Kentucky families, and end Mitch McConnell’s 30-year legacy of just working for himself. Kentucky Democrats stand united in our efforts to defeat Senator McConnell.”

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell stayed on message in a statement about Grimes’ announcement, adding he is looking forward to a “respectful exchange of ideas.”

“Accepting the invitation from countless Washington liberals to become President Obama’s Kentucky candidate was a courageous decision by Alison Lundergan Grimes and I look forward to a respectful exchange of ideas. The next sixteen months will provide a great opportunity for Kentuckians to contrast a liberal agenda that promotes a war on coal families and government rationed health care with someone who works everyday to protect Kentuckians from those bad ideas. Together we’ve invested a lot to ensure that Kentucky’s voice in the U.S. Senate is heard from the front of the line rather than the back-bench and I intend to earn the support to keep it there.”

The Republican Party of Kentucky also continued the theme of Grimes being “Obama’s Kentucky candidate” saying that she is not ready for a run against McConnell.

“Alison Lundergan Grimes has officially decided to carry the Obama flag of Obamacare, war on coal, runaway debt, and bankrupting Medicare and Social Security in Kentucky,” said Kelsey Cooper, Communications Director for the Republican Party of Kentucky. “Although her liberal credentials are well-established, her record as a first-term Secretary of State indicates she’s not ready for AAA let alone the Major Leagues. Mitch McConnell is Kentucky’s champion in every national debate and Kentuckians aren’t going to trade that in for a rookie rubberstamp for the Obama agenda.”

Gov. Steve Beshear told Kentuckians in a statement that he is pleased Grimes is going to take on McConnell.

“I am very excited that Allison Lundergan Grimes has entered the race for the United States Senate, and pledge to do everything I can to assist her in defeating Mitch McConnell. For thirty long years McConnell has reigned over partisan dysfunction and played political games, bringing Washington, D.C. to a standstill instead of getting things done for the people of the Commonwealth and the nation. Secretary Grimes will be a strong candidate who will fight for our families and our nation.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s Executive Director linked Grimes to Obama and raised the issue of coal in a statement.

“Mitch McConnell has always put the people of Kentucky first and will keep fighting for them no matter how hard the liberal left tries to stop him. Senator McConnell is engaged in the most innovative, modern, and effective campaign in history and will make the case that conservative ideas will protect Kentucky from the radical assault on their livelihood being waged by President Obama, Harry Reid and Alison Lundergan Grimes.

“Just last year, Alison Lundergan Grimes stood proudly at the Democratic National Convention to nominate Barack Obama, who has followed through on his promise to destroy the coal industry; in essence declared a war on the state of Kentucky and the middle class families who call it home. Kentuckians have absolutely no reason to send Alison Lundergan Grimes to Washington to help pass the policies of a President whom they adamantly oppose and to elect a liberal Senate Leader who declared, ‘coal makes us sick.’”

A progressive group that has led protests against mountain top removal mining, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, issued a statement saying its members were “energized.” The statement referenced energy and environment issues but didn’t explicitly discuss coal, an industry of which Grimes has been supportive.

“Members of KFTC are energized and ready to play a major role in what is shaping up to be one of the nation’s most important elections. Kentuckians deserve elected leaders – from members of Congress to legislators to local officials – who have a vision that includes all Kentuckians. We deserve leaders who will create good, clean energy jobs, protect our health and communities from toxic pollution, expand the right to vote, and enact a tax system that supports our needs. And we deserve elected leaders who listen to the concerns of everyday people and work to improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians.

“Those are the values that will drive KFTC members as we work tirelessly to register and inspire thousands of people to vote in the upcoming election. We hope they are also the values that inspire candidates to run and serve our Commonwealth.”

(Watch Pure Politics tonight for an interview with Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth about what Grimes’ emergence as a candidate means and how the race could play out.)

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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