Senate Conservatives Tackle McConnell

It didn’t take long for at least one conservative organization to begin launching an air attack against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) for his role in failing to stop the funding mechanism for the Affordable Care Act, now commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” The Senate Conservatives Fund, through its Senate Conservatives Action issue organization, originally founded by then-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), has launched a $300,000 Kentucky television ad buy to claim that the five-term senator has “let us (Kentuckians) down” (above). The context directly relates to the healthcare issue.

The message is clearly intended to rile the Kentucky conservative base against Sen. McConnell to an even greater degree than previously noted. Already, investment executive Matt Bevin is actively pursuing a primary challenge against the Republican leader, a candidacy that the Senate Conservatives Fund has endorsed. Early polls show McConnell to be holding an overwhelming lead over Bevin, but data posted for the general election tells a different story.

The Kentucky Senate campaign is shaping up to be one of the 2014 bellwether races, and one of two key Republican must-holds (Georgia is the other) if the party is to have any chance of gaining the majority for the next Congress.

In the general election, Democrats have coalesced around Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, and early polling is showing her to be strong challenger. In fact, three of the most recent Kentucky general election surveys, reveal Grimes to be holding a small lead, though at least two of the three are push polls, meaning the questionnaire language is slanted in order to produce a certain result.

In any event, Public Policy Polling, surveying for the liberal United for Change organization (Oct. 14-15; 1,193 registered Kentucky voters), gave Grimes a 45-43 percent edge over the veteran senator. In July, two more polls were conducted, another one from PPP (July 19-21; 1,200 registered Kentucky voters) that also showed Grimes to be ahead (45-44 percent), and a countering Republican study from Wenzel Strategies (July 23-24; 624 registered Kentucky voters) that posted the Minority Leader to a 48-40 percent advantage.

Push questions were definitely included in the United for Change PPP poll, but it is unclear if the queries were asked before or after the ballot test was posed. The questionnaire lists them as post-ballot test inquiries, but there is no assurance that the order of the printed questions was presented in that manner to the respondents. If the progression was consistent, then McConnell has a difficult challenge facing him.

From his maneuverings against Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) mini-filibuster that led to the recent government shutdown, it is clear that the incumbent is much more concerned about his general election prospects than he is about repelling Bevin’s primary challenge. Should the Senate Conservatives Action initiative develop legs, or if other such ads and efforts that will undoubtedly follow ignite electoral movement, then the senator may be forced to reconsider his political priorities.

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