NBC News Chief Political Correspondent Chuck Todd boils down Senate race for Ky. Chamber crowd

07/21/2014 10:06 PM

LOUISVILLENBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd told a group of business executives and Kentucky government leaders that the 2014 U.S. Senate race is already having an impact on the country even before the election is in the books.

Todd said the easy part of the campaign will be explaining the strategy and storylines Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell or Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes will use to win election, the hard part is which one can make their argument stick.

“If it ends up becoming a referendum on McConnell I think we know which way the race will go,” Todd said. “If he can successfully turn this into a referendum on Obama and coal I think we know which way this race will go. We can explain the result in either way the question is who is capable of enacting the campaign to make that result work?”

Todd said that he feels Grimes has the “harder road to go” because of the issue of coal in the state, but looking at the national political landscape and the attitudes of voters that he would “rather be Grimes than McConnell.”

“I think the anti-Washington vibe is that real,” Todd told the crowd.

A pivotal factor in the Senate race, Todd said, are the debates — if there are any.

“If they have debates I think they are going to be huge — I guess that’s turning into a little bit of a difficult proposition. I’m happy to moderate any of them,” Todd said to the laughs and cheers of the chamber crowd.

While Todd monitors the national political landscape he said that Kentucky occasionally makes it’s own rules in the race — which are already having an effect on how the country works.

“Your Senate race in some ways I think there’s times where I feel like it is immune from the national environment, right, it is an entity of in itself. It’s having such a large impact on government right now,” Todd said referencing a story in the Washington Post and the leadership battle between McConnell and his Democratic counterpart Harry Reid which has ground the chamber to a halt.

An issue that has been a crux of McConnell’s speeches of late has been the GOP taking control of the U.S. Senate — which McConnell predicts would mean a change from minority leader to majority leader for himself.

Todd said it’s possible that national Republicans can take the U.S. Senate in 2014 — but they don’t necessarily need McConnell to win in Kentucky to get there.

“I’ve heard that McConnell doesn’t like hearing when people like me say this, ‘oh, Republicans can win the Senate without McConnell, but they can — they’ve put enough seats in play, which is what a responsible party would do,” Todd said. “They could withstand losing both Georgia and Kentucky and still find eight seats then to win majority.”

However, Todd said Republicans do not have a strong crop of candidates in 2016 which could lead to another possible flip-flop of the chamber.

A majority change in the Seante would likely mean “nothing” for the larger issues of the day like immigration Todd said, because of the election timing. He said he doesn’t know of a political world where immigration reforms can happen after the midterm elections — which quickly turns into the start of presidential primary season.

On immigration, Todd predicted that “It’s not going to get done until ’17 at the earliest. Ditto with tax reform.”

Todd called it the new reality in Washington that as soon as election season nears, that’s the end of compromises, which he said is strange considering the enormous amounts of money that will be spent in the cycle.

“In an odd way we’re going to have billions of dollars — billions of dollars spent on this midterm election that is going to do really nothing to change the calculus in Washington — other than mark time,” Todd said.


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