There isn't too much to see in Kentucky, really. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election only features a primary fight for the future of the Republican Party and a well-connected Democrat who's benefiting from an entire party’s interest in taking him out.
The messaging in the race shifts fast enough to cause whiplash. As the top target of both national Democrats and the tea party, McConnell has been charged for being both the biggest obstructionist in Congress and for failing to obstruct President Barack Obama’s agenda enough.
The McConnell campaign has attempted to discredit his primary challenger, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, and keep its attention squared on his likely Democratic opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. But with Bevin’s personal financial resources and conservative backers aiming for their biggest score yet, McConnell can’t ignore him.
In the meantime, McConnell has worked to position himself as coal’s best friend in Washington, which could go a long way in a state where that industry is interconnected with every day life. He’s tied Grimes to Obama on coal and health care. Of course, the president's health care overhaul law is a more complicated issue in the Bluegrass State, where the Democratic governor believes his expansion of Medicaid and creation of a state exchange will make the law popular there.
McConnell is clearly vulnerable. But in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992, the onus is still on Grimes — running her first race for federal office — to prove to voters she won’t be just another vote in support of the president.
The race is rated Leans Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
Editor’s note: Not all congressional races are created equal, and Roll Call’s politics desk admits to playing favorites. So in the spirit of the holidays, these are a few of our favorite things (races) to cover this cycle. We’re shining a spotlight on our 12 most fascinating races through the new year — in no particular order. Happy holidays from @RollCallPols!
Check out the rest of Roll Call's most fascinating races of 2014: California’s 31st District, California’s 17th District, Illinois’ 13th District, West Virginia's 2nd District, Arizona's 2nd District, Mississippi Senate, Alaska Senate and Arkansas Senate.