Larry Sabato: Kentucky's McConnell 'in decent shape,' will be re-elected

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Mitch McConnell,Kentucky,Campaigns,Alison Lundergan Grimes,Larry Sabato

Political whiz Larry Sabato and his University of Virginia "Crystal Ball" team have called Kentucky for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, despite a wave of media attention to the GOP leader's foes.

"We favor McConnell to win both his primary on May 20, 2014, and his sixth term in the fall general election," they say in the upcoming Crystal Ball published Thursday morning and provided in advance to Secrets.

McConnell is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's No. 1 target and they believe they've got a good challenger in Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Even the Tea Party is challenging McConnell with businessman Matt Bevin.

But Sabato and congressional expert Kyle Kondik see polling, money and political support going McConnell's way.

First, the issue of McConnell's new ad against Bevin. Some have called it a sign that McConnell is on the run. But the UVa team note that McConnell has nearly $10 million on hand, the likely backing of SuperPACs, and has always been an aggressive campaigner.

"So if McConnell has essentially bottomless coffers, then why not attack Bevin early and often? Wouldn't it be political malpractice not to? In politics, a candidate sometimes is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't," said the duo.

Next is the Paul factor. McConnell supported Sen. Rand Paul's opponent in 2010, but the two have made up and McConnell has even hired Paul's political aide to run his reelection. The Paul-McConnell alliance should be enough to spike Bevin's effort, they say.

Then there is the polling that finds Grimes up by a point or two over McConnell. Again Sabato and Kondik cite recent Kentucky history, in which McConnell typically wins squeakers. And, they add, recall that Mitt Romney won more than 60 percent of the Kentucky vote against President Obama in 2012.

"Our 'likely Republican' rating does not suggest that the race won't be close -- it might well be, as many of McConnell's races have been. Rather, it suggests that we still think McConnell is a clear favorite to win, even if it's only by a percentage point or two. Despite the troublesome recent news for the minority leader, he is still in decent shape in our eyes."

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.