Republican U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes (L) prepare for their debate at the Kentucky Education Television network headquarters in Lexington, Ky on Oct. 13, 2014.
Pablo Alcala/Pool/Reuters

Grimes doubles down on the “Obama” question

Updated

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes doubled down on her refusal to say who she voted for in 2008 and 2012 for President, citing her role as the chief elections officer in the state and privacy at the ballot box as her reason. 
 
“This is a matter of principle,” Grimes said.  “Our Constitution grants, here in Kentucky, the constitutional right for privacy at the ballot box for a secret ballot.” 
 
“You have the right, Senator McConnell has that right, every Kentuckian has that right,” Grimes continued.  “ As Secretary of State, the chief election official, I’m tasked with overseeing and enforcing all of our election laws.”
 
Grimes tried to paint herself as a senator of the future versus a senator of the past, casting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as the master of partisan gridlock who has lost his effectiveness in Washington. 
 
“It’s amazing that after 30 years in Washington, Mitch McConnell’s voice still isn’t being heard,” she said in a response to a question on jobs.
 
Sen. McConnell accused Grimes of trying to deceive the people of Kentucky about who she is.

“My opponent has spent most of her time trying to deceive Kentuckians about her own views,” he said.
 
When Grimes was asked about the difference between a “Clinton Democrat” and an “Obama Democrat”, Grimes explained that it was about growing and expanding the middle class… which drew a sharp response from McConnell.
 
“There’s not a dimes worth of difference between a Clinton Democrat and an Obama Democrat,” he said. 
 
McConnell answered, without hesitation, that he had supported Trey Grayson over Rand Paul in the 2010 Kentucky Republican Senate Primary.  He was also asked about the difference between a Tea Party Republican and an establishment Republican.  McConnell  acknowledging that the Tea Party movement was spawned from a popular uprising motivated by the tax and spend policies of the Obama administration, producing enthusiasm in the Republican Party.  McConnell also said that intra-party contests have led to a stronger Republican Party in the general election. 

“I had a primary myself this season,” he said.  “I don’t own this seat, I have to earn it.”

When the subject turned to health care, McConnell said the Affordable Care Act is the worst piece of legislation passed in over half a century and that “the best interest of the country would be achieved by pulling out Obamacare root and branch.”
 
The moderator pressed the Senate Republican leader on whether he would like to see Kentucky’s statewide exchange called KY-Connect, under which over 500,000 people have signed up for health insurance, continued.  McConnell dismissed it as merely a “website,” paid for by a Federal Government grant.  

“Well it’s fine, yeah, I think it’s fine to have a website,” he conceded.

“Well, it also insured over 580,00 people,” the moderator responded.
 
Grimes said there is work to do to improve the Affordable Care Act but doesn’t want to rip insurance out the hands of people who now have access to it.
 
“Governor Beshear has demonstrated great courage, and over half a million Kentuckian’s lives are better because of the expansion of Medicaid and KY-Connect,” Grimes said.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, 10/13/14, 7:28 PM ET

Who did Grimes vote for in 2012?

Eugene Robinson joins Chris Matthews to try to figure out why Alison Lundergan Grimes waffled when asked if she voted for Obama in 2012.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, Debates, Kentucky and Mitch McConnell

Grimes doubles down on the "Obama" question

Updated