Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is hoping that, as Kentucky goes, so goes the nation.
The veteran Senate Republican was the first to claim victory Tuesday night in a critical mid-term election that will likely catapult McConnell and his Republican colleagues into the majority of the Upper Chamber for the first time in nearly a decade. Presuming the night turns out the way the Republicans and analysts have predicted McConnell will succeed Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada as Majority Leader in the 114th Congress.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC projected at 7 p.m. that McConnell had defeated Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, the scion of an influential Democratic family with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton and the secretary of state. The networks called the race with incomplete returns showing McConnell ahead of Grimes by a decisive 57 percent to 40 percent.
Grimes, 35, is half McConnell’s age and argued he was too ingrained in Washington politics to understand his state’s needs. She seemed well positioned to challenge McConnell whose job approval rating in Kentucky was dismal, with 37 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving of his performance.
But McConnell countered that Grimes was in league with Obama on too many issues, including efforts to reduce global warming at the expense of Kentucky’s coal industry. She tried mightily to distance herself from Obama – as did numerous other Democratic candidates – even to the point of refusing repeatedly to say publicly whether she voted for Obama in the 2012 election.
McConnell outspent and outmaneuvered the relative political newcomer. Even a last minute decision by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to pump more money into the Grimes’ race failed to turn things around.
With support for Grimes strongest in Louisville and other larger cities, McConnell followed a path to victory through the rugged coalfields of eastern Kentucky and rural farm areas in the western part of the state. Some 63 percent of Kentucky voters disapproved of President Obama’s performance yet 54 percent disapproved of the Republicans. Yet, many voters said concern about McConnell becoming majority leader was very much on their minds as they cast their votes, according to the CNN exits polls.
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