If you’ve been following along here at B&P, you know we’ve long advised that the Kentucky Senate race between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes is strategically tied to the 6th District Congressional race between Andy Barr and Elisabeth Jensen. If Grimes is to win, she will likely need big turnouts in Jefferson County and in Central Kentucky — the 6th District. Conversely, the better Andy Barr does in getting out his base in the 6th, the better the chances Mitch McConnell has to win the entire state.
Well, I’m happy to report that one of the Senate campaigns finally took my advice! Mitch McConnell embarked yesterday on a three day road trip to visit fifteen different counties and he’ll be joined on the journey by 4th District Representative Thomas Massie, 5th District Representative Hal Rogers and 6th District Representative Andy Barr!
Road trips are supposed to be fun — this one is anything but. Here’s why.
- The Hill reports that the crowds at the events along McConnell’s road trip will be bussed in at the expense of the McConnell campaign. Lacking grassroots supporters, McConnell has chosen to pad his numbers by paying volunteers to show up and provide “enthusiasm.”
- If bussing in paid supporters to create a fake sense of “enthusiasm” isn’t awkward enough, Thomas Massie and Mitch McConnell have something of a tepid relationship as is, with the Tea Partier Massie toying with the McConnell campaign in their pre-primary pleas for unity.
- On top of that, there’s the United Mine Workers of America. In their infinite wisdom, they endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Senate race and were met with the overwhelming derision of the McConnell campaign and McConnell’s few actually enthusiastic supporters. McConnell and his team insulted the UMWA, saying it’s basically not a real organization, that it’s beliefs shouldn’t be taken seriously and that no one particularly cares what they think or who they support. That’d be fine except for the fact that in their infinite wisdom, the UMWA also endorsed Andy Barr. The choice to split the difference could be seen as a tactical choice to help Grimes except that it’s unclear how many voters who would actually care about such things would ever actually be swayed by that tactical decision. It’s an even more troubling, and awkward, choice since the UMWA’s stated goal of protecting mine workers is directly at odds with Andy Barr’s stated goal of not protecting mine workers.
- To add to this awkwardness, on Sunday the Herald Leader chose to endorse Andy Barr’s opponent in the 6th District, Elisabeth Jensen. The Barr campaign and their supporters have essentially decried this choice as yet further proof of the fact that the media is controlled by far left-wing extremists who are bent on destroying America. Except that on the same day the Herald Leader endorsed Elisabeth Jensen, the paper also endorsed Hal Rogers in the 5th. Unlike the UMWA’s split decision, the Herald Leader’s reasoning is quite clear: Hal Rogers appears to be the only powerful Republican in the state with the guts to talk truthfully about what is happening to the coal economy in Eastern Kentucky. And, frankly, on this subject, Rogers isn’t just at odds with Mitch McConnell and Andy Barr who just dumbly repeat “the War on Coal” as if the EPA were the Islamic State, Rogers is at odds with Alison Lundergan Grimes as well who’s busily wrapped herself in coal dust and mirrors on this issue. While McConnell and Barr will spend the road trip talking deceptively about a war that doesn’t exist while offering no real discussion of what happens next, Hal Rogers will grit his teeth and play along as he secretly pines, for the sake of the people he represents, to have a (surprisingly) adult conversation about the issue with Governor Steve Beshear.
- And while that awkwardness is bubbling just below the surface, there’s the more obviously awkward fact that Andy Barr and Hal Rogers simply don’t like each other. That may be because in 2010, Andy Barr campaigned on pushing term limits. Setting aside the fact that Mitch McConnell has been in the U.S. Senate for three decades, this awkwardness stems from Barr’s central argument for term limits which focused on Committee Chairmen and, as he says here specifically, Appropriations Committee Chairmen. Hal Rogers has been the House Appropriations Committee Chairman for most of the past two centuries.
Still, for all it’s awkwardness, Mitch McConnell’s terrible road trip is strategically quite smart. Among moderate voters (not to mention liberal ones) who make up 43% of registered voters, McConnell has lower favorability ratings and higher unfavorability ratings than both his opponent, Ms. Grimes, and the guy she may or may not have voted for, Barack Obama. Mitch McConnell needs help and — however awkwardly — Barr, Rogers and Massie are gonna give it.
Eeesh. But I guess it’s like they always say, Make Love Not A War On Coal!