As it becomes clearer that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will survive his primary challenge from tea party favorite Matt Bevin, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) has been playing up an emerging theme as the general election approaches: Jobs.
Earlier this month Grimes released an ambitious jobs plan for the state. When McConnell released an ad touting how he’d helped one constituent diagnosed with cancer, Grimes hit back with an ad focusing on jobs, rather than playing up McConnell’s steady opposition to Obamacare, which has helped insure over 130,000 Kentuckians under the new law — beating almost every other state in signups.
“If you look at Mitch McConnell’s record it is clear that the only job he has been looking out for in the past 28 years is his own,” Grimes told TPM in an interview.
It’s understandable why Grimes would focus on job creation. Kentucky’s unemployment rate is 8.0 percent which makes it 44th in the nation. But on another topic that’s engulfed the national conversation and the Kentucky Senate race, Obamacare, Grimes is a bit more careful. That’s despite the fact that Democrats have touted Kentucky’s successful healthcare exchange as the premiere example of how Obamacare works coupled with the fact that McConnell has shown dogmatic opposition to the law. McConnell’s party has voted more than 40 times to repeal or dismantle the law.
Grimes has addressed Obamacare before. She’s said that aspects of the law are problematic and needs fixing. But she rarely dwells on the subject and, instead, quickly pivots back to McConnell on a range of issues.
In the interview with TPM Grimes even hit McConnell on opposition to the omnibus government funding bill that passed earlier this month.
“What we have seen is that Sen. McConnell continues to vote against the interests of not just Democrats but Republicans and Independents,” Grimes said. “Indeed all Kentuckians. And you just have to look at the most recent vote on the omnibus bill. No bill is ever perfect but it was a bill that was about compromise and at the end of the day it had measures in it, good job creation measures bringing funds for infrastructure that Kentucky dearly needs.”
Grimes said McConnell “voted against Kentucky’s interest when he voted against that bill.”
It’s a strategy that seems to be working so far. An increasing number of polls show a tight race in a head-to-head matchup between her and McConnell, with a recent Public Policy Polling survey putting her just a point behind the Kentucky Republican. Asked if she thought Bevin had helped cause the tight race, Grimes said it would be close even if McConnell wasn’t facing a primary challenge.
“I don’t think Sen. McConnell has been that distracted given the millions of dollars that he has already spent against me in this race,” Grimes said, adding that that between her opponent’s campaign and pro-McConnell outside groups millions “has already spent against me.”
“But what I think it shows is Kentuckians can’t be bought,” she insisted. And there’s sure to be an influx of more cash this fall, though it’s unclear if outside groups like The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) and The Madison Project will fall in line to support McConnell in the general election if Bevin’s bid is unsuccessful.
In the meantime, Grimes seems to be shifting focus to the new issue Democrats hope to make a winning one in 2014: a national minimum wage increase.
“I think that if we are going to grow the middle class of this state we have to give them not just a minimum wage but a living wage and that’s indeed what $10.10 is all about,” she said.