Team McConnell: High fundraising, low approval ratings

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media about the "fiscal cliff" on Capitol Hill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media about the "fiscal cliff" on Capitol Hill.
Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Sen. Mitch McConnell has raised $15.4 million so far to defend his Senate seat–and he’s still over a year away from his 2014 re-election campaign.

The McConnell campaign released its earnings for the second quarter of 2013 on Thursday, and NBC News has learned that the Senate Majority Leader raised $2.26 million in April, May, and June and closed out the quarter with $9.6 million cash on hand. The Republican incumbent also boasted over 5,300 donors this quarter, nearly twice as much as the previous quarter. Less than half the donors are from McConnell’s state of Kentucky.

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a press release, “It is humbling to see so many folks, both in Kentucky and across the country reach into their pockets at this early point in the cycle and in this tough Obama economy to support our campaign.”

But despite high earnings, Team Mitch has been playing defense for months. The red-leaning state went for Romney by 23 points in 2012, but McConnell’s approval ratings are consistently low–an April PPP poll showing that only 36% approve of his performance, down from 37% in December.

And the Democrats now have their candidate. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced on July 1st that she would challenge the five-term Republican senator in November 2014, with her official announcement coming later this month. Actress Ashley Judd was rumored to have an interest in the seat, but passed on the bid.

In response to these numbers, a Grimes adviser told “It should be no surprise that the special interests are lining up to fill Senator McConnell’s campaign war chest. In contrast, Kentuckians are going to [our website] and signing up and contributing to send Alison Lundergan Grimes to the Senate to represent us, not Washington.”

Lundergan Grimes is not required to submit her fundraising until the end of the third quarter in October.

Watch Reid and McConnell spar over nominee holdups, below: