McConnell Not as Vulnerable as Democrats Believe

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Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 07:47 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may be in one of the most competitive 2014 races but the extent of his vulnerability has been overestimated, The New York Times says.

Polls suggest the Kentucky Republican, who faces Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, is either neck-in-neck or trailing her, and Democrats believe they have a strong chance at taking the seat.

"The polls overstate his vulnerability," The Times said in an analysis of the contest. "A McConnell defeat would be all but unprecedented."

McConnell has an incumbent advantage in a state that opposes the president, is solidly Republican, and at a time when the president's approval rating is at low ebb, hovering around the low 40s, The Times says.

Additionally, since 1956, only seven senators in these circumstances have lost re-election, according to The Times.

"No senator has lost in a state as favorable as Kentucky when the president represents the other party," The Times says.

"States with serious reservations about the incumbent president seem unwilling to dismiss the president's opponents in the Senate. Very few incumbent senators lose re-election in states as favorable as Kentucky, period."

The Times notes that since 1956, only one incumbent senator has lost re-election in a state more favorable than Kentucky: Sen. Ted Stevens who had been convicted on seven counts of corruption one week before the 2008 election. Even then, he only lost by 1 percentage point, The Times says.

Challenger Grimes "needs to make inroads into Kentucky's Republican-leaning voters, and so far, it hasn't happened," The Times says.

"McConnell will spend the next eight months reminding voters that he's the president's most reliable adversary, and that control of the Senate is at stake. That message seems likely to resonate with Kentucky's anti-Obama electorate."

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