Spare change? Ky U.S. Senate primary candidates all claim it


by Joe Arnold

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 6:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 20 at 12:55 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- On the eve of Kentucky's primary election, the top candidates for U.S. Senate shared a common theme, each claiming to be an agent of needed change.

"This task before us to change America starts right here in Kentucky," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) as he kicked off a seven-stop fly-around across Kentucky.

"The way to begin to change America is to change the senate," McConnell continued.  "It doesn't solve every problem but it begins to move us back in the right direction."

For months, independent public opinion polls have shown McConnell and Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in a virtual dead heat, including Friday's WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll in which Grimes led McConnell 43 percent to 42 percent.

"I think Kentuckians are saying no matter how many millions of dollars Mitch McConnell spends trying to buy his way back to Washington DC, they are ready for a new voice," Grimes said on Monday, "a fresh face. Someone with a jobs plan."

Grimes made the rounds of Louisville morning television shows on Monday in her official capacity as Secretary of State, yet answered several questions about her bid to unseat McConnell.

"The energy, the enthusiasm we're seeing, it's contagious," Grimes told WHAS11.  "It's uniting Democrats, Republicans and independents behind this campaign.  They're ready for someone who will finally take Kentucky forward, instead of holding us back."

Speaking to his supporters at his Middletown campaign headquarters, Republican primary challenger, Matt Bevin, also claimed to be a fresh face.

"They've got two Republicans," Bevin said of GOP voters' choice on Tuesday, "One who has stood for a bigger, more bloated government (and) debt ceiling increases.  And, one who is somebody new.  As many of you know and some of you I am seeing for the first time and I appreciate you being here, but I'm a guy who's never run for political office.  I've never aspired to be a politician."

Bevin again called for term limits on members of Congress that would limit senators to two six-year terms. 

Running for his sixth six year term, change is not the easiest sales pitch for McConnell.  yet it is his closing primary message, that by wresting control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats, he could lead a more effective challenge to President Obama's agenda in his final two years of his presidency.

"He's going to be there until January of 2017," McConnell told supporters.  "The only thing we can do this year my friends is change the senate to begin to change America."

Though Bevin and McConnell share many conservative views and causes on paper, Bevin's closing message of the campaign is the same as how he started, that McConnell is more talk than action on conservative causes.

If McConnell is facing the toughest re-election fights of his career, it's happening at a time when other political fundamentals are working in his favor.

Is the United States headed in the right direction? Or is it off on the wrong track?  
21%  Right Direction
69%  Wrong Track
10%  Not Sure

Asked of 1782 registered voters
Margin of Sampling Error for this question = ± 2.2%

In the latest WHAS11/Courier Journal Bluegrass Poll released on Friday, 69 percent of registered Kentucky voters say the United States is on the wrong track.

Who is more to blame for the country's problems? Republicans? Democrats? Or are both equally to blame?  
10%  Republicans
40%  Democrats
49%  Both Equally
1%    Not Sure
Asked of 1227 who think U.S. is off on wrong track
Margin of Sampling Error for this question = ± 2.9%

And when that subset was asked who they blame, half said Democrats and Republicans equally, yet by a 4-1 margin, the other half found Democrats to blame.

"No administration has been worse for Kentucky than this one," McConnell said.

As McConnell targets Obama, national Democrats are targeting McConnell.

"You might say that I am raising money for both sides," McConnell quipped.  "She is able to raise money because she's running against me. I'm able to raise money because I am me."