Don’t look now, but 2014 might be a doozy of a year for Senator Mitch McConnell. The veteran lawmaker who was one-half of the Senatorial team that found compromise and re-opened the government while also raising the debt ceiling is not very well-liked in his home state of Kentucky. He was already facing a stiff challenge on his right flank from Tea Partiers who feel he works with Democrats too much — a laughable notion to anyone who knows McConnell was the one who famously said the GOP’s primary political mission was to make Barack Obama a one term president. However, when 34-year-old Alison Lundergan Grimes entered to challenge Mitch from the left, the nightmare of the polls got much worse for the Senate Minority Leader.
Grimes, the daughter of a former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman , is no stranger to politics. She’s also come out swinging against McConnell, showing everyone in the state and around the country that unlike Ashley Judd — who many thought would leave her acting career behind to challenge McConnell next year — badmouthing from Team McConnell would not scare her away. Now, it appears her persistence is paying off.
According to Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling company, Grimes is leading McConnell in the polls by two points, 45% to McConnel’s 43%. Driving the downturn in McConnell’s numbers is the government shutdown. According to PPP, 60% of Kentuckians opposed the shutdown, and McConnell is taking it on the chin over it. The same poll showed that 48% are now less likely to vote for McConnell. Perhaps most ominous for McConnell is the fact that among Republicans polled, Grimes is already pulling 18% of the votes away from McConnell. That’s quite a lot of moderate Republicans who are fed up with business as usual out of McConnell.
Two points this far out from the election isn’t anything to celebrate or to pin any hopes for a victory on, but it’s clear that the shutdown had a major impact on how people feel about McConnell in Kentucky. It also doesn’t take a degree in political science to know that ads from now until 2014 from Grimes will remind people over and over that McConnell was every bit as key in the government shutdown as he was in ending it, and those constant reminders may just beef up that lead for Grimes in the long run. Regardless of how far out the election is, McConnell’s campaign staff is most-assuredly nervous at this point; they’d much rather be up by two points than trailing a young, female Democratic challenger at any point in the next year or so, much less right now.