SHAFAQNA – The first-and-only Kentucky Senate debate this season triggered fireworks Monday, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggesting that Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes would be a rubberstamp for President Obama’s agenda and Grimes accusing the five-term incumbent of being the quintessential Washington insider.
“My opponent has spent most of her time trying to hide her own views,” McConnell said at the start of the one-hour televised debate. “She has been an active, partisan delegate all along.”
McConnell also argued that Grimes, if elected, would “do the bidding” for Obama and others he said were trying to put an end to the coal industry in Kentucky and the rest of the country.
Grimes said McConnell “doesn’t want to take responsibility for all that is wrong with Washington.”
“It due to gridlock and the partisanship he has championed,” she added.
The closely-watched race is considered the toughest in McConnell’s 30-year Senate career and among the six or seven that will decide whether Republicans take control of the Senate.
They need to win a net total of six races, and a McConnell loss would make their task even harder.
Democrats are enthused about the possibility of knocking off the Republicans’ top senator. And like Republicans, they have poured millions into the race, which will likely be the most expensive Senate contest of the cycle.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, for example, recently threw in $1.4 million for Grimes, on top of the half-million reportedly already spent on the race.
“She’s able to raise money because she is running against me,” McConnell said earlier this year. “I’m able to raise money because I am me.”
An averaging of polls by the nonpartisan website RealClearPolitics.com has McConnell, who survived a primary Tea Party challenge, leading by 3 percentage points.
The 72-year-old McConnell would almost certainly become the Senate majority leader if his party takes control of the upper chamber, which combined with its control of the House could potentially derail the remainder of Obama’s second term.
Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, has said throughout the campaign that McConnell’s conservative leadership has denied Kentuckians jobs and health care.
Much of their campaign money is coming from interests outside of the state.
Hollywood types are eager to upset a top Capitol Hill Republican, and McConnell supporters are trying in part to stop what they consider overspending by the Obama administration, including his health care plan.
The McConnell campaign and its allies throughout the election cycle have continuously run TV ads comparing Grimes to Obama, whose disapproval rating in Kentucky is at least 60 percent.
Two of them — Kentuckians for Strong Leadership and the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition — have put down a combined $5.2 million in General Election ad time.