The 2014 congressional mid-term election season is here, and few races will be watched more closely than Kentucky’s Senate contest. Incumbent Senator Mitch “Yertle” McConnell is being challenged by Democrat Alison Lundgren Grimes. According to a new poll released by Public Policy Polling for Americans United for Change, this is a neck-and-turtleneck race, with McConnell holding on to a 1-point lead of 45 to 44 percent.
While incumbents do have a decided advantage in important elections, there are some indicators that this will be a difficult race for the Senate Minority Leader. Key factors to watch:
- The Affordable Care Act. While Kentucky is typically red in national races, Governor Steve Beshear is a Democrat, and a major booster of the new healthcare law. McConnell has been a leading opponent of the law, fighting for its repeal. As more Kentuckians obtain coverage under this law, this may very well hurt his support among independents who normally trend toward Republicans and incumbents.
- Support for a minimum wage hike. Kentucky voters support a $10.00 per hour minimum wage by a margin of 57 to 34 percent. How much could this hurt McConnell? 42 percent of all voters report that they are less likely to support him should he vote against a hike. Undecided voters would oppose him by a 53 to 28 percent margin. Since undecideds lean toward incumbents, this is certainly not good news for him.
There are a few things in his favor. Incumbency and Kentucky’s conservative leanings are the most obvious. He has also been a reliable stooge of the Tea Party and is likely to do their bidding to ward off a primary challenge. No matter that they don’t trust him — they will rally behind him if it prevents Grimes from getting the seat in any way.
Six months might as well be six years by most election measures. While it is much too soon to speculate further, cautious optimism is warranted for Grimes to put up a formidable challenge. The Senate is going to be tough for the Democrats to hold, so this is one race that merits every bit of attention it receives. A Grimes win would good for Kentucky, and good for the nation.
h/t: Daily Kos