Political Paddock: At a big moment, Grimes posts a big fundraising number

Herald-Leader Political writerApril 15, 2014 

Alison Lundergan Grimes announced a massive fundraising haul for the first quarter, and her timing couldn't have been better.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell flexed his big-money muscles Monday when he revealed that his campaign raised $2.4 million in the first quarter of the year, but Grimes upped the ante Tuesday when she reported her campaign raised an eye-popping $2.7 million in the first quarter.

Grimes said her campaign has raised nearly $7.3 million since she entered the race in July and has nearly $5 million in cash on hand.

"Thanks to supporters like you, we outraised Mitch McConnell ... again," Grimes said in an email message to supporters. "Today is yet another sign that the momentum we've had since the very beginning isn't slowing down anytime soon.

"If we keep standing shoulder to shoulder, I know our grass-roots network will finally defeat Washington's cash machine and retire Mitch McConnell," she wrote.

Despite her impressive haul, an accomplishment that can't be overstated for a first-time candidate, Grimes still figures to be at a disadvantage to McConnell, who holds a 2-to-1 cash edge over his likely Democratic challenger.

What was arguably more important for Grimes on Tuesday than setting a new record for quarterly fundraising in Kentucky was the timing of the reporting deadline and the subsequent announcement.

The Grimes campaign has come under increasing scrutiny from national and state media in recent weeks, questioning whether the candidate has the policy chops to present herself as a viable alternative to McConnell.

Those questions were compounded in recent days by Grimes' refusal to be interviewed about the lack of punishment for former state Rep. John Arnold, who is accused of sexually harassing three legislative aides in the Democrat-led state House and has contributed $250 to Grimes' campaign.

Only after media accounts of her silence and a public challenge from Republicans, including McConnell, did Grimes release a statement on the issue, saying she was "glad" Arnold resigned more than seven months after he had done so and urging the Legislative Ethics Commission to rehear the case against Arnold with all members present.

On Tuesday, Grimes was able to change the subject, even if questions about her policy stances threaten to haunt her all the way to November.

By posting such a massive tally, Grimes is in a position to spend the next few weeks — there is another reporting deadline later this month, and Grimes is pushing fundraising literature specific to that date — boasting of her campaign strength.

She also can continue mocking McConnell's campaign, which has endured weeks of bad press as a result of repeated gaffes. And Grimes continues to enjoy prime polling position, tied with or leading McConnell in virtually every poll that has been released.

Whatever concerns Democrats in Washington and Kentucky might have had about Grimes as a candidate, and they've discussed that only in hushed tones, do not apply to her fundraising organization.

There is little or no reason to think that the Democrat's money machine will slow down in coming months, so it seems that Grimes has more than adequately satisfied any questions about whether she'll have the money to compete with McConnell.

What remains to be seen is how much of a political price Grimes will pay for the sources of her cash flow.

Republicans were eager Tuesday to point out that Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who will attend a fundraiser for Grimes in Louisville this week, has what pro-Second Amendment advocates might charitably call an anti-gun record.

To raise the kind of money she needs to hang with McConnell, Grimes has to raise money with national Democrats whose positions on guns, coal or President Barack Obama's health care law are at odds with those of the majority of Kentuckians.

Republicans are keeping a list of who Grimes takes money from and where she's going to get it.

"The very same ultra-rich liberal elite who bankrolled Barack Obama into the White House are pulling out all the stops for Alison Lundergan Grimes," McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said Tuesday. "Kentuckians know darn well her entire campaign is funded by those who seek to destroy Kentucky values and our way of life, and the only way they can accomplish that is by getting rid of the man responsible for stopping them, Mitch McConnell."

The Grimes campaign accurately states that McConnell takes more money from lobbyists than any other senator, but it's unlikely that many Kentuckians didn't already suspect as much.

The who and where of Grimes' fundraising will most assuredly be a large component of McConnell's fall paid-media campaign. For now, though, Grimes has a simple answer to any questions about whether she can beat McConnell:


Political Paddock includes Sam Youngman's observations from the campaign trail. Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Email: syoungman@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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