The gloves are coming off in arguably the most closely watched Senate race in the country.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes are both in attack mode as they seek to undermine each other in the final five months of their campaigns.
The Senate minority leader’s team is attempting to paint Grimes as a staunch Barack Obama supporter trying to destroy the coal industry. Meanwhile, Grimes has been hammering home her message that McConnell is out of touch with the needs of Blue Grass State residents by bending to the demands of special interest groups and representing the status-quo and gridlock in Washington.
The heated race took a twist on Wednesday night when Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that she was going to campaign for Grimes, partially because the Republican did not support her student loan refinancing proposal. The Senate killed the legislation with a 56-38 vote earlier in the day.
“One way I’m going to start fighting back is I’m going to go down to Kentucky and I’m going to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes,” Warren told msnbc’s Chris Hayes. “She’s tough, she’s feisty, she endorsed the student loan bill….So my view is I’m going to get out there and try to make this happen for her.” Warren also criticized the Republican as being there for “millionaires and billionaires.”
The GOP, meanwhile, is thrilled that Warren – considered one of the most liberal lawmakers in the Senate—will be stumping for Grimes. It gives them one more opportunity to tie Grimes (currently secretary of state in Kentucky) to Obama, who remains unpopular in the state.
Republican National Committee spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Grimes is standing alongside “firebrand liberals” and that Warren’s backing “tells you everything about who she will stand with in Washington.” Wilcox added that Warren’s teaming up with Grimes is “simply icing on the cake.”
Warren’s bill would have allowed an estimated 40 million Americans to refinance their student loans into cheaper debt by increasing taxes on the richest households. Following the vote, Grimes released a statement declaring McConnell showed “blatant disregard” for the hundreds of thousands in her state “crushed by student loan debt” and that the GOPer cast a vote against middle-class families.
Sen. McConnell has argued Warren’s legislation will not really help students who are in debt. “The Senate Democrats’ bill really isn’t about students at all, it’s really all about Senate Democrats, because Senate Democrats don’t actually want a solution for their students, they want an issue to campaign on to save their own hides this November,” he said on the Senate floor earlier this week.
The latest RealClearPolitics average of polling data surrounding the Kentucky Senate race shows the Republican leading by just two points, 45.5% to 43.5%. Democrats see the race as one of the party’s best hopes in picking up a GOP Senate seat.