Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appears to be looking past his primary challenge from Tea Partier Matt Bevin toward his likely opponent in the general election, Kentucky’s Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes — and that could be good news for those who fear gridlock could lead to economic disaster this fall.
Last week McConnell’s campaign debuted “Women for Mitch” and supplied reporters with testimonials from women, including one that lauds his support for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):
“Mitch was the co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act — and continues to advocate for stronger policies to protect women. I am proud to call him my senator.” — Angela Leet, Jefferson County
While it’s true the senator did back the original VAWA in 1991, that bill never became law. And he has not supported the actual law or any of its renewals since. He also opposes Family Leave, equal pay legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and most every reform designed to improve women’s health.
But the fact that McConnell is trying to conjure a record on women’s issues signals that his campaign trusts a Republican poll that shows the incumbent up by 40 points over Bevin. With about two-thirds of voters saying they have no opinion of the challenger, this gives McConnell’s campaign the opportunity to do what they do best: destroy an opponent’s image. They’ve apparently already landed a solid blow on the businessman, accusing him of lying about attending MIT on his LinkedIn profile.
Bevin is wealthy enough to fund his own attacks all the way to the primary, which is still months away. However, McConnell’s advantage in the polls and ability to raise funds suggests he’s set on taking on Grimes as soon as possible. The Democrat posted slight leads over the senator in two Democratic polls. The Republican poll found McConnell up by 8 percent.
McConnell appears to be benefiting from his alliance of convenience with the Paul family, designed to get him through any primary challenge. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) — who defeated McConnell’s candidate in a primary in 2010 — has endorsed the leader. Ron Paul’s grandson-in-law Jesse Benton is McConnell’s campaign manager because it will be a “big benefit for Rand in ’16.” While Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) hasn’t endorsed his leader, Texas’ junior senator isn’t likely to endorse Bevin.
However, that could change after this month, when Cruz’s plot to defund Obamacare will come to a head. The government runs out of funding on September 30. By the middle of October, Congress needs to raise the debt limit. Both houses of Congress will need to pass bills to keep the government funded and the United States solvent. In addition, they’ll need to vote on the president’s plan to intervene in Syria. Cruz, along with Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have been arguing that any bill that funds health care reform is akin to voting for the law.
If McConnell were in a dead heat with Bevin, his ability to negotiate or even allow bills that do not please the base would be severely limited. But since his focus is now on women, who oppose a government shutdown by a large margin, it seems the leader has the room to make a deal that will anger the Tea Party, as any deal that doesn’t erase Obamacare from human history is likely to do.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com