Since there are no challengers to any of the five of six Republican members of the House from Kentucky and since Michael Mcfarlane will challenge the only Democrat- John Yarmuth- in the Third Congressional District, the only primary drama in the state and perhaps the country is the primary battle for the Republican-held seat of Mitch McConnell.
There are two decent websites this writer consults to analyze the political ideology of members of Congress- Ontheissues.org and Govtrack.org. The former bases their ratings on comments and self-reports by members and occasionally backs this up with their voting records on key legislation in specific areas. The latter tracks bill sponsorship and actual voting behaviors. The difference between their ratings by these websites illustrates the problems conservatives have with McConnell. Based on his own words and stated policy positions, McConnell is rated a hard-core conservative by one site while the other- based on his bill sponsorship and votes, including cloture votes- rates him as a moderate Republican. In fact, only 13 other Republicans are to the left of McConnell. In other words, he talks the conservative talk, but he certainly does NOT walk the conservative walk.
Some of this may be attributable to his “leadership” position in the Senate. I have given him the benefit of the doubt in the past, but the ill-advised roll out of the GOP immigration reform effort coupled with his caving in on the debt ceiling debate in which the GOP got nothing in return have changed my mind. To me, they indicate an abdication of leadership and principle, not to mention that they are NOT politically astute moves. With the GOP having the Senate clearly within their sights this year, the fear is that should this occur, Mitch McConnell would reap the undeserved benefits and become Senate Majority Leader. Based on his performance as Minority Leader, that is a scary thought.
However, all these concerns must be balanced against the political reality of Kentucky. Cook rates the state overall as +16 Republican which would indicate a good chance for the GOP despite the candidate. But, the majority of the Kentucky Republican delegation is more of a libertarian type conservative. Furthermore, Democrats still hold political power at the state level. This leads me to believe that the Cook rating may be a little inflated.
Even still, the Democrats are fielding perhaps their strongest candidate in the form of current Kentucky secretary of state, Allison Lundergan-Grimes who, for a Democrat, may be the ideal candidate for that party in that state. Whoever wins the Republican primary will have their hands full in the general election campaign. Therefore, fundraising- an area where McConnell excels- will have to be taken into account. A summary of general election hypothetical polling in a race involving McConnell indicates that neither candidate has an advantage and it keeps going back and forth. With Matt Bevin, although there are a lot of undecided voters, Grimes holds more leads. This is likely a name recognition issue with Bevin which wouldl change should he be the nominee. While Grimes may be the ideal Democrat from Kentucky, Matt Bevin- despite his endorsements from conservative groups- is also ideally moderate enough to capture the important independent voters and match Grimes at the end of the day. His policy positions sound commonsense enough and well-grounded that they will resonate with voters come Election Day.
Unfortunately, those views cannot be expressed on a larger forum since McConnell is relying on incumbency and his words and refused to debate Bevin directly. Hopefully, Grimes will not be as weak-kneed as McConnell. This writer is not ignorant of polling figures showing McConnell with a sizable lead in the primary at this point. However, this is an endorsement article, not a prediction one.
A Bevin candidacy may, ironically, somewhat jeopardize Republican control of the Senate and open a wider door for Grimes. That is the great hope of the Democratic Party as Kentucky may be their firewall against Democratic losses elsewhere. However, although a McConnell candidacy may increase Republican chances somewhat (which is debatable), that would entail him becoming Majority Leader. If that is the case, we are all left to sit back and cross our fingers. Even though there are risks involved in booting out the less-than-ideal Republican incumbent (for example, Dick Lugar in Indiana in 2012), there are greater risks involved in supporting the reelection of Mitch McConnell which, even then, is no guarantee in a general election this year. Therefore, this writer endorses the candidacy of Matt Bevin in the Kentucky primary against Mitch McConnell.