I asked Dorothy Barkley what she’d say if Sen. Mitch McConnell showed up at her door in Paducah. “I’d tell him, ‘Granddaddy was a yellow dog Democrat, and I can see right through what you are doing by using his name,’” the feisty septuagenarian replied.
Her granddaddy was Alben W. Barkley of Paducah, Harry Truman’s vice president and the only Kentuckian to serve as senate majority leader. But McConnell, who often praises Barkley for his leadership, is almost certain to become the second one when the new GOP-majority senate convenes in a few weeks.
McConnell handily won another term, but not with Barkley's vote. She cast her ballot for “that nice young woman,” Alison Lundergan Grimes, Team Mitch's Democratic challenger.
Dubbed “The Veep,” Alben Barkley had been majority leader in the 1930s and 1940s under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and The Man from Missouri, who became president when FDR died in 1945.
Truman tapped Barkley as his running mate in 1948. Barkley was reelected to the senate in 1954 but died in office in 1956. He was 78.
McConnell likes being compared to Barkley, who was a congressman before he was a senator.
No matter, a stint as majority leader would be the only thing McConnell would have in common with Barkley, according to The Veep's granddaughter. “I remember my granddaddy well. I was 13 when he died.”
Last summer, Barkley, 71, got so perturbed about McConnell gushing over her grandparent that she dashed off a letter to the editor of the Paducah Sun, her hometown newspaper. The Sun endorsed McConnell.
Barkley wrote that she appreciated “Sen. Mitch McConnell’s pleasant words about my grandfather.” But she cautioned that “Alben Barkley was a ‘yellow dog’ Democrat.”
“I don’t know how many people know what that means anymore,” she wondered. For the uninitiated, it translates as a Democrat so devout he would vote for a “yellow dog” if the pooch were on the Democratic ticket.
Anyway, Barkley said the Veep “would have seen right through” McConnell’s “kind words.” She urged Sun readers, “Let’s get a new face in Washington, D.C., a Democrat.”
Barkley’s record backs up what his descendant says about him.
McConnell is a conservative whose bane is “big government.” Barkley didn’t duck the liberal label. He ardently supported FDR’s Depression-fighting New Deal program of massive federal action to put people back to work and to boost the economy. Too, Barkley was on board with Truman's "Fair Deal," which the president hoped would continue New Deal liberalism.
McConnell is partial to filibusters but not to unions. Barkley disdained the former and championed the latter.
While their political perspectives are as different as chalk and cheese, so are their political styles.
McConnell is prone to bare-knucks politics. “His glower has usually been enough to dissuade those who consider crossing him,” Jason Zingerle wrote in Politico.
Barkley preferred winning hearts and minds through humor and charm. While McConnell routinely demonizes Democrats, Barkley didn't talk like Republicans were hell-bound heathens.
In addition, Barkley practiced the politics of give-and-take. He didn't think "compromise" was a dirty word.
“I have been a loyal, regular Democrat all during my career,” he wrote in That Reminds Me, his folksy 1954 autobiography. “….However, that has never precluded me from recognizing a lot of good things emanating from the opposition. In the period when I was in Congress and the Democrats were in the minority I supported measures I thought were beneficial for the people, regardless of which side of the aisle they came from.”
Also, McConnell is less than Barkley-like on the stump. The Veep was a master at homespun campaign oratory. His story bag was bottomless.
Though Barkley became a politician in Paducah, where “Angles,” his brick antebellum home, still stands, Dorothy Barkley credits her ancestor’s celebrated wit and bonhomie (probably not a word the down-to-earth Barkley frequently used) to his rural Graves County origins.
The Veep was born in 1877 in a long-since disappeared two-story log cabin in the long-gone farming community of Wheel, about 20 miles from Paducah. “Graves County is where he got his sense of humor and his savviness,” Barkley said.
I’m one of those “liberal national Democrats” that conservative Kentucky Democrats sometimes scorn.
I know some Kentuckians of my persuasion are less than enthusiastic about Team Switch. They say Alison Lundergan Grimes is merely the anti-McConnell.
I beg to disagree.
This union card-carrying Hubert Humphrey Democrat is voting for Grimes. As far as I can tell, so are all of my left-leaning buddies here in deep western Kentucky, where I was born, reared and still live.
Anyway, when Grimes revealed her not-exactly-liberal policy agenda early in her campaign, blogger Joe Sonka suggested it might “cause enough Kentucky liberals to totally check out from the race and sit at home next November and drag away thousands of potential votes in Louisville and Lexington to affect the outcome in a close race.”
Talk is cheap. Words to purportedly patriotic tunes can ring hollow too when they are sung by a guy who skipped military service in wartime yet bases his whole show biz persona on very public professions of love for God and country.
I mean Lee Greenwood. The country music star is famous for crooning “God Bless the U.S.A.” The tune was “voted the most recognizable patriotic song in America,” according to his website.
The Grammy Award-winning Greenwood, 72, sang his signature song at a free concert on behalf of the Mitch McConnell campaign Tuesday night on a farm near Murray. McConnell stood next to Greenwood as the popular recording artist belted out “God Bless the U.S.A.”
About 200 people, including First District U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, showed up.
McConnell and Greenwood (Whitfield, too) share hard right Republican politics with a God-and-country slant.
Reporters are still bird-dogging Sen. Mitch McConnell over a story in The Hill that said his campaign offered to pay volunteers to help boost “an enthusiastic atmosphere” at his campaign rallies.
The other day, Louisville’s WAVE TV ran a news story featuring McConnell’s response to the continuing controversy. Predictably, the senate majority leader wannabe tried to fluff it all off.
But what got my attention was how the WAVE story ended: “McConnell also faced a question…about whether if he became majority leader he would push legislation to offer privatized accounts for Social Security. McConnell said he wasn’t going to say what his agenda would be” [Italics mine].
Alison Lundergan Grimes is this union card-carrying, 63-year-old Social Security recipient’s candidate.
Yet if I were a retiree on the fence wavering between Team Mitch and Team Switch, I’d give what McConnell said – or, rather didn’t say – some serious, if not prayerful, consideration before I voted a week from Tuesday.
In any event, this lifelong Kentuckian and out-to-pasture community college teacher is grateful to be getting Social Security. I want Uncle Sam to keep running the program.
Right-wing scare tactics about Social Security going broke are baloney. They are calculated to undermine public confidence in one of the best federal programs, thus helping pave the way for Republicans like McConnell to privatize Social Security.
Former president Bill Clinton, stumping for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Paducah, revealed his version of how Sen. Mitch McConnell is trying to con voters by tying her to President Barack Obama.
“Now here’s what the real message is,” Clinton told about 1,800 Grimes partisans who jammed the McCracken County High School gym.
Grinning broadly and standing before a huge American flag reminiscent of the opening scene from the movie Patton, he pretended to be the senate majority leader wannabe: “I know you don’t like the president.
“This is your last chance to vote against him because he’s gonna be gone in two years and you know you want to pop him one more time.
“You know you do.”
The Big Dog paused to let the laughter and applause subside.
The Hill Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined comment on the news that he's offering all-expenses-paid trips for volunteers to provide "enthusiasm" during stops on his bus tour.
"I'm not sure I know what to say about that," he told CBS affiliate WVNS, directing the reporter to campaign adviser Josh Holmes.
The Hill reported this week that a Kentucky Republican Party operative emailed supporters in early October offering all-expenses-paid trips to join the senator's tour and "contribute to an enthusiastic atmosphere" at events.
The new Bluegrass Poll seems to prove Team Switch’s contention that the last Bluegrass Poll wasn’t an “outlier,” pollster-speak for a survey that’s the exception, not the rule.
Released Monday, the survey had Sen. Mitch McConnell up 43-42 over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. The previous Bluegrass Poll put Grimes out front, 46-44. Both surveys were well within the margin of error.
The new poll “confirms yet again that the 15-month campaign plan from which we have never wavered has Alison poised for a narrow but decisive victory on November 4th,” said a Monday statement from Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst.
He added, “Since the last Bluegrass poll, Mitch McConnell and his allies have outspent our side by nearly $3 million, lying about Alison and her record, and they have nothing but a statistical dead heat (and the further cementing of McConnell’s mid-40’s ceiling) to show for it.
“McConnell and his allies have spent a whopping $50 million trashing Grimes and yet today we stand deadlocked just 15 days out.”
The survey of 655 likely voters also had Libertarian David Patterson with five percent.
“The poll shows that McConnell is in the fight of his political life despite being the most powerful Republican in the Senate and likely to take over as the Senate majority leader if he wins re-election and the GOP can win control of the Senate,” wrote Joseph Gerth in the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Bluegrass State’s largest newspaper.
Team Switch dismissed the previous Bluegrass Poll an “outlier.” So did some Washington pundits and political science professors in Kentucky and elsewhere.
Hurst countered that the current poll “confirms what we learned in the previous Bluegrass poll—that there has been a fundamental shift in the race since late August when McConnell led by 4 points, represented by a substantial swing to Grimes that has her tied or enjoying a slight lead.
“Even the right-wing Gravis poll last week showed Alison gaining 7 points since their September 16th survey, with huge pickups amongst the key independent demographic.”
Hurst charged that Team Mitch “is still pushing bad data in hopes of feeding a media narrative that the race is slipping away. That may be working with some DC outlets, but once again, the disconnect between Beltway punditry and the reality on the ground is vast.
“McConnell’s two latest data points do nothing but prove that this race is tied for the incumbent, at best. To wit: the Fox News poll touted by Republicans in early October had McConnell up four points, but as FiveThirtyEight noted of that poll, controlling for the GOP-leaning house effect of Fox polling, the actual result would be McConnell +0.4% — a pure coin flip.”
Hurst also took exception to the numbers in the recently-released Republican-leaning Rasmussen poll, which put McConnell on top 52 to 44.
The liberal Daily Kos website derides Rasmussen as “the House of Ras.” Hurst claimed the Rasmussen survey “was riddled with so many errors and flawed assumptions it’s barely worth rebutting.”
Hurst’s statement also said that “McConnell’s numbers remain dangerously low for an incumbent” though “McConnell partisans will point to a year’s worth of public polling showing the majority having McConnell in the lead.” Those numbers don’t matter, he added, “given that the fundamental shift shows Alison pulling into the lead or tied and McConnell stuck in neutral with momentum on our side.”
In addition, Hurst said Team Switch “remains in an extremely strong financial position…The campaign recently released yet another record-breaking 3rd quarter fundraising haul, announcing nearly $4.4 million cash-on-hand for the sprint down the stretch. That amount is more than any Democrat holds in any competitive 2014 U.S. Senate race that remains in play.”
The news that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee evidently isn’t going to buy any more TV ads for Alison Lundergan Grimes has sent the celebrity pundits scurrying to their word processors to compose obituaries for Team Switch.
“Democrats are pulling out of the Kentucky Senate race. Here’s why that’s important,” trumpeted a headline on “The Fix,” Chris Cillizza’s Washington Post column (at least it was the headline on the Internet.
“The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has stopped its TV advertising for the final three weeks in the Kentucky Senate race,” Cillizza wrote. “That decision effectively leaves Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes on her own and is rightly read as a sign that national Democrats believe the race is effectively over.”
Grimes, the Democrat who is after Sen. Mitch McConnell’s job, was up 46-44 over the senate majority leader wannabe in the last Bluegrass Poll. So Cillizza’s musing made me think of what Mark Twain supposedly said about reports of his death being more than a tad exaggerated.
Anyway, after reading Cillizza’s musing, this old reporter sought comment from Charly Norton, Grimes’s press secretary, I emailed her. “We remain confident and poised to win,” she emailed right back.
Campaign flaks get paid to say things like that.
Go ahead and call it home cooking if you wish, but here's how a Democratic party pro sizes it up: -- a DSCC “pullout” is not quite right. The DSCC isn’t -- for now anyway – buying ads beyond what the group already paid for. But the DSCC’s effort in the state is more than buying TV ads.
Check out Guy Cecil’s $300,000 (Exec. Dir. of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) Tweet.
Just signed a $300,000 wire for the KY Get Out The Vote operation for @AlisonForKY. That's an interesting view of "pulling out of the race"
The election will boil down to turnout. Team Switch is confident they have built a mega-horsepower statewide grassroots, get-out-the-vote organization that’s hitting on all eight cylinders.
Team Switch has $4.4 million in cash on hand and posted record-breaking fundraising totals on Tuesday: a cool $4.9 million.
Last – maybe first – is that Bluegrass Poll. Team Switch is especially happy with Grimes’s numbers among independents.
True confession time: I’m rooting for Team Switch. Nonetheless, I generally don’t bet on politics or sporting events and I leave the prognosticating to media stars like Cillizza.
But before golden October declines into somber November and election day, I would wager on a couple of things:
Team Mitch doesn’t think their guy has the election in the jug.
Whichever team wins, the vote will be uncomfortable close.
Norton’s rejoinder to the big league pundits reminds me of the immortal Bluto Blutarsky who famously declared: “Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is!’” (If you don’t know Bluto, Google him, or let me google that for you.)
Anyway, right now Team Switch is still on the field and clinging to a two point lead in one of the most highly regarded polls in Kentucky. She was four points down in the previous Bluegrass poll.
Admittedly, I don’t think Grimes helped herself by not revealing who she voted for in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. At her TV debate with McConnell, she still wouldn’t say. I wish she had all along.
Yet the fact that she he hasn’t – and apparently won’t -- doesn’t seem to be hurting her with the base, or at least among union families like mine, who are a big chunk of her base.
This lifelong Kentuckian who doesn’t think “liberal” is a dirty word and who voted for Obama both times he ran isn’t holding Grimes’s non-disclosure against her. None of my union buddies who voted for Obama are either.
Also, I didn’t detect any flagging ardor on Grimes’ part in her war of words with the captain of Team Mitch. It could be argued convincingly that she won on points.
Too, big-name Democrats are still heading to Kentucky to stump for her. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio came the other day.
Both Clintons have been here, Hillary is supposed to be back tonight. I hear Bill is due back next week.
No matter what the punditocracy is pontificating, to the captain and the rest of Team Switch I say, “Illegitimi non carborundum, y’all.” You can Google that one, too.
In Monday night's KET debate, Sen. Mitch McConnell bristled at Alison Lundergan Grimes’s intimation that he became a millionaire by cashing in on his job.
No way, he shot back at the Democrat who wants his job. The senator protested that Grimes knows he and his spouse got rich as "a result of an inheritance that my wife got when her mother passed away."
Joe Raese was even more candid four years ago: “I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it. I think that’s a great thing to do.”
Joe who? He’s the Republican another Joe, a Democrat named Manchin, beat in the 2010 West Virginia senate race. Raese’s remarks apparently didn’t play in Parkersburg, Philippi and elsewhere in the Mountain State.
I wouldn’t bet the farm that McConnell’s true confession will play in Paducah, Pikeville or anyplace else in the Bluegrass State.
McConnell says success awaits anybody who has initiative and works hard. George Babbitt called it “pep.”
In McConnell’s Babbitt world, unions and government help for people who need help – help like a boost in the minimum wage – kill jobs and destroy self-reliance.
“Americans take pride in solving problems for themselves,” McConnell once said. “And if we fail, we get back up and try again. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.”
So arise and get peppy. But it's easier work just talking about self-reliance while living it up on an inherited fortune.
Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan doesn’t care if Alison Lundergan Grimes, the labor-endorsed Democrat who wants Sen. Mitch McConnell’s job, voted for President Barack Obama or not.
“This election is about Grimes versus McConnell,” Londrigan said. “He is the arch enemy of workers, and we need to be focused on that.”
Londrigan found agreement aplenty in the mostly union crowd at Saturday’s “Stand Up and Fight Back” labor rally in Paducah.
Veteran city union leader Larry Sanderson got up the rally to boost support for five local labor-endorsed Democrats for the state legislature. He said the crowd size “was at least 2,500.” The gathering was one of the largest union rallies in western Kentucky in a long time, said Sanderson, a retired UA international representative.
The weather was cool, but Grimes showed up to a warm welcome. The crowd’s faith in labor’s senate candidate seemed unshaken by the controversy she sparked by declining to tell The Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board whom she voted for in 2008 when Obama was elected president and in 2012 when he won a second term.
Charles Dempsey, a United Auto Workers retiree from Benton, didn’t mince words. “She’s a Democrat. Who the hell did they think she voted for?”
Team Mitch’s website claims, “As the next majority leader, Senator McConnell will fight to protect Medicare for all Kentucky seniors.”
I’ll believe that when hogs fly and kids don’t shoot hoops in Kentucky anymore – nah, not even then.
I’m a 64-year-old union retiree on Social Security. I’ll go on Medicare a little over a month after the election.
On Nov. 4, I’m voting for Alison Lundergan Grimes for a number of reasons, not the least of which is her pledge to safeguard Social Security and Medicare.
McConnell’s vow that he’ll protect Medicare reminds me of the proverbial fox who promised to protect the hen house – and smiled, revealing chicken feathers stuck between his teeth.
“I will never support means-testing for Social Security,” Grimes said. “Instead, I will look for ways to spend smarter and focus on reducing waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system, improve coordination of care between doctors, hospitals and patients and allow Medicare to better negotiate prescription drug prices.”
It looks like the fickle fellow of football and politics has gone over to Team Switch.
I mean Old Mo, Momentum.
It’s like we’re in the fourth quarter of a smash-mouth, slobber-knocking grid grudge match. Alison Lundergan Grimes has quarterbacked her underdog eleven to a slim lead over powerhouse Team Mitch.
A translation for non-football fans: Grimes is up 46-44 in the current Bluegrass Poll. In late August, the third quarter, the same poll had Team Switch down by four.
After his team blew the lead, quarterback Mitch McConnell blew his cool on the radio – more on that in a minute. Anyway, it’s easy to get testy when it seems you’re losing the big game you thought you had in the bag.
After all, Grimes was just an “empty dress,” according to a GOP bigwig in Washington. Team Mitch evidently figured her for a pushover, too.
I’d bet the farm that Sen. McConnell was sure by now he’d be in the equivalent of a blowout high school ballgame, one where the refs keep the clock going to bring a swifter end to the inevitable.
Who can forecast the final score in this nail-biter? But the football faithful know that when an underdog unexpectedly gives a powerhouse a run for its money, the latter squad sometimes gets rattled and starts fumbling and tossing interceptions.
It’s the same in politics.
The other day, McConnell journeyed to Georgia to hobnob with GOP senate hopeful David Perdue, a millionaire who said he is “proud” of making a ton of money as a big-time outsourcer.
Team Switch pounced on that fumble.
The Grimes campaign made Perdue and McConnell birds-of-a-feather. They added Mitt Romney to the flock. They pointed out that Romney was one of the first outsourcers and that he had recently come to Kentucky to help raise cash for Team Mitch.
Team Switch wants us to keep Georgia on our minds: “McConnell’s embrace of politicians who have earned millions in their business careers off of shipping jobs overseas tells Kentuckians all they need to know about his refusal to fight for them and their jobs.”
So after his rainy night in Georgia, McConnell returned home and got snarky on Kentucky Sports Radio, said to be the state’s most widely listened to radio program.
Host Matt Jones said the senator was "needlessly angry" and “unnecessarily combative.” He panned the senate majority leader wannabe as "the consummate politician."
Team Switch called a blitz. McConnell’s “combative and hostile appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio only further solidified Kentuckians' view of him as an untrustworthy Washington insider, willing to play dirty tricks in an attempt to hold onto his personal power,” said Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst.
Press secretary Charly Norton sacked the quarterback: “Moreover, his abrasive, condescending interview was a stark contrast to Alison’s in-studio appearance a couple weeks ago, in which she deftly answered every question and welcomed the opportunity to debate McConnell on the show.”
Team Switch also emailed out a red-hued “Mad Mitch” graphic that shows the senator scowling and raising his fist.
Ire, of course, is often a mask for fear. McConnell might be at least a little scared that “his personal power” is waning. So he popped his cork on the radio.
Will he do likewise on TV? McConnell is supposed to debate Grimes Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television.
Can he keep calm and carry on?
Supposedly, McConnell has never trailed in an October poll. For sure, Old Mo has never been on the other side this late in a McConnell senate campaign.
The captain of Team Mitch is used to getting his way by buffaloing political foes. “His glower has usually been enough to dissuade those who consider crossing him,” Jason Zingerle wrote in Politico.
That “glower” has failed to faze Grimes, whom an admiring Politicususa website called “all Southern steel magnolia with her gorgeous smile and her sugar coated daggers.”
Whatever else happens in the debate, I’d also bet the farm that Grimes won’t wilt or blow her stack. But can Team Mitch doctors cure their quarterback’s bad case of fumbleitis?