OWENSBORO, Ky. (8/1/13) – U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has his work cut out for him in what will likely be one of the heaviest funded political races outside of New York or California, veteran political writer and Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame member Al Cross told the audience at this morning’s Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce Rooster Booster breakfast.
Despite being what he called “the best political strategist and tactician in the country,” McConnell is facing a war on two fronts – the Republican primary in which at least one viable candidate has already emerged, and the general election, where he will likely face Democratic challenger Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes.
Matt Bevin, who announced his candidacy for the Senate seat last week, shouldn’t be taken too lightly as a Republican candidate, Cross said.
“He dealt with reporter’s questions well,” Cross said. “He’s an attractive candidate with money. He doesn’t look like the newcomer that he is.”
Cross said Bevin won’t win the primary against not only a career politician but also the party leader, noting that a party leader has never been defeated. However, he said, the way McConnell carries himself in the primary will determine how strong he is in the general election.
McConnell’s biggest hurdles to reelection, Cross said, include the way conservatives handle what he referred to frequently as “Obamacare” (The Affordable Health Care Act) and his disconnect with members of his own party, both inside and outside of Washington, D.C.
“Mitch McConnell is being attacked from the left and the right,” Cross said.
During his address at the breakfast, Cross pointed out that McConnell recently scheduled a brief morning stop with Sen. Rand Paul, which transformed into an all-day event when he apparently realized he didn’t know anyone in the room who was following Paul on his tour across parts of Kentucky. He said later that it would take that level of commitment from McConnell to keep the party base intact while convincing Democrats in Kentucky that he shares their ideals on subjects like “Obamacare,” coal, and the second amendment. All three were topics McConnell highlighted in a recent press release, where Cross said he expressed his desire to force the president to repeal the Health Care Act. But getting that done won’t be as easy as it sounds, especially given the fact that others in the Republican caucus want to defund it as part of a continuing resolution to keep the government running.
When asked by someone in the audience what his thoughts were on whether Obamacare can be repealed or defunded, Cross said the president would likely veto any such bill that landed on his desk. He said a government shutdown would be an advantageous outcome for the president.
Other topics that came up during the Q&A session included concerns about the coal industry and the possibility of tax reform. Cross said tax reform is a good idea but that when that door is opened, special interests group would get involved and would end up killing any possibility for such reform. Additionally, he said he lacked faith in Gov. Steve Beshear’s ability to push the issue.
“I don’t think he has a lot of stick with the legislature to get this done,” Cross said of Beshear.
Coincidentally, Cross took the opportunity during his mention of Sen. Rand Paul’s tour through Kentucky to tell the audience to expect Paul to make a bid for the presidency in 2016.
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