Kentucky's Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, and Kentucky Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks at the opening of her Paducah campaign office Aug. 1, 2014 in Paducah, Ky.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

Dems reverse course, take a renewed interest in Kentucky

It was just last week that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made a surprise announcement: after having already invested more than $2 million in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race, the party would divert resources elsewhere.
The move from the DSCC, the party’s committee devoted solely to supporting Senate candidates, came as something of a shock to nearly everyone, and suggested the Democratic establishment no longer saw a path to victory for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).
A week later, however, Dems have changed their minds. Politico reported this afternoon:
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to go back on the air in Kentucky after the party has been encouraged by new polls suggesting the race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is within reach.
The party committee is reserving $650,000 in airtime to boost Alison Lundergan Grimes after reviewing recent internal and public polling, a DSCC official told POLITICO. The polling, the source says, suggested that independent voters are moving in the Democrat’s direction.
This is no small development. When the DSCC announced it would walk away from Kentucky, it suggested party leaders no longer saw the contest as competitive. For Democrats to jump back in, there must have been data the DSCC found compelling.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that the latest Bluegrass Poll, conducted by SurveyUSA and released this week, showed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) ahead by the narrowest of margins over Alison Lundergan Grimes, 44% to 43%.
Let’s also not forget that the Democrats’ options are dwindling, arguably making Kentucky more of a necessity than a luxury.
With states like Colorado and Iowa – where Dems were once optimistic about defeating far-right extremists – seemingly slipping away, the DSCC is left with an increasingly narrow window to help prevent a Republican takeover. To salvage the party’s Senate majority, Democrats aren’t just re-evaluating races like Kentucky’s, they’re also taking contests like Georgia’s and South Dakota’s far more seriously.
In late August and early September, this clearly wasn’t the plan Dems had in mind. Indeed, the scenario involving Kentucky, Georgia, and South Dakota was more of a “break glass in case of emergency” kind of strategy for the DSCC.
And yet, here we are. Party leaders who thought “if all else fails…” are now coming to the conclusion that everything else has failed. Hopes that the public, when push came to shove, simply wouldn’t tolerate the radicalism of candidates like Joni Ernst, Cory Gardner, and Tom Cotton are faltering.