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President Bill Clinton carried the state twice, but with less than 50 percent: 1992 (45 percent) and 1996 (46 percent). The last Democratic presidential nominee to get a majority was former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter in 1976 (53 percent). He received 49 percent four years later. Last year, President Barack Obama lost 42 percent of the vote to “uncommitted” in the primary and received 38 percent in the general election.
“It’s like going from high school to the All-Star game in the major leagues and facing a pitcher who will throw a ball at your head,” according to one Democratic source comparing a secretary of state race to a U.S. Senate race against McConnell.
Grimes is young, but politics runs in the family.
Her father served in the Kentucky general assembly and was chairman of the state party, and he and his wife have been longtime Clinton donors, supporters and friends. The Lundergans catered Chelsea Clinton’s wedding through their family business.
In 1999, Grimes contributed $1,000 to Al Gore’s presidential campaign, when she was a 20-year-old student at Rhodes College in Memphis. In fact, she was one of nine family members who contributed exactly $1,000 each to the vice president on the same day (Sept. 30) that year, including her two older sisters, two younger sisters, mother, father and two uncles. Gore lost the state by 16 points in 2000.
Grimes also contributed $1,000 to Democrat Tony Miller’s unsuccessful challenge to Rep. Anne Northup, a Republican, in 2004 and $2,300 to Jack Conway’s Senate campaign in 2010.
Even though Grimes wouldn’t be able to attract the same national attention and fundraising ability that Judd would have enjoyed for her race, McConnell’s polling numbers demonstrate a level of weakness. In mid-December, the leader’s campaign released a survey that showed him with a narrow advantage, 47 percent to 43 percent, over Judd.
But if Grimes runs, she will likely need significant support from outside Democratic groups as well as a few breaks in order to buck the Democratic losing streak in federal races in the state.