Mitch McConnell Has a Challenger—and She Could Win

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 1 2013 5:40 PM

Mitch McConnell Has a Challenger—and She Could Win

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Mitch McConnell has finally found a 2014 challenger—and she might just win.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ashley Judd may be out of the picture, but Mitch McConnell's Kentucky Senate seat isn't quite safe yet: Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergran Grimes, a Democrat, officially declared her bid today to defeat McConnell in the 2014 middterm election. Grimes is quite popular—she was elected with over 60 percent of the vote—and has been urged by Bill Clinton to challenge McConnell. Kentucky is, of course, a deeply red state, but the New York Times' Nate Silver foresees a close race:

[T]he four partisan polls that have been conducted so far ... have shown a relatively tight race, with Mr. McConnell leading by an average of 4.5 percentage points.
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A SurveyUSA poll conducted in June for The Courier-Journal found that 34 percent of registered voters would vote against Mr. McConnell no matter who his opponent was, double the 17 percent who said they would vote for him regardless.
Those numbers reflect the fact that Mr. McConnell is fairly unpopular in Kentucky. Public opinion surveys show that, on average, more Kentuckians disapprove than approve of the job he has done in the Senate. Roughly half of the respondents in the four recent partisan polls said they disapproved of Mr. McConnell’s performance.

Unpopular as McConnell may be, President Obama provokes even more ire among Kentuckians, and McConnell will likely attempt to connect Grimes to the president and his party. As Silver notes, that process has already begun, as McConnell's office congratulated Grimes on her announcement with a hilariously backhanded jab:

Accepting the invitation from countless Washington liberals to become President Obama’s Kentucky candidate was a courageous decision by Alison Lundergan Grimes, and I look forward to a respectful exchange of ideas.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.