Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is sustaining political punches — locally and nationally — for ducking repeated questions on Thursday about whether she voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012.
Quizzed by the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board, the U.S. Senate candidate seeking to oust Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) responded by calling herself a “Clinton Democrat, through and through,” and said, “I don’t think the president is on the ballot, as much as Mitch McConnell might want him to be.”
Republican operatives immediately pounced, clipping and blasting out a video of the interview exchange within moments of it happening, and sparking a discussion on Twitter among political flacks and journalists. The McConnell campaign also circulated video, calling it a “stumbl[e]” and a “gaffe.”
In Kentucky, the awkward moment made headlines and grabbed front-page coverage from both the Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald Leader. While Grimes said she was a delegate for Hillary Clinton in 2008, the Courier-Journal noted that she was a delegate for Obama in 2012.
Grimes took hits Friday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Said Chuck Todd, the host of NBC’s flagship political talk show Meet The Press: “Can Kentuckians expect her to cast a tough vote on anything? Is she ever going to answer a tough question on anything? You want to be a U.S. senator? … You can disagree with [Obama] but can’t answer that basic question and come across looking that ridiculous? I think she disqualified herself. I really do. I think she disqualified herself.”
A Grimes campaign spokesperson didn’t immediately return a request to respond to the pushback.
Grimes’ hesitation with the question is an outgrowth of her ongoing attempts to distance herself from Obama, who is very unpopular in Kentucky — 29 percent of registered voters view him favorably, while 55 percent view him unfavorably, according to this week’s Bluegrass Poll. McConnell has made it a centerpiece of his campaign to link Grimes with the president.
“President Obama has rarely been to this state so he’s a caricature here,” said Jonathan Miller, a Democrat and former Kentucky State Treasurer from 1999-2007 who is now supporting Grimes. “He’s either a dirty word here or among liberal Democrats he’s very popular.”
Below is the original exchange between Grimes and the Courier-Journal editorial board.