Politics & Government

Pro-McConnell group runs ads linking Grimes to Obama and Pelosi


FRANKFORT — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes remains undecided about challenging U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell next year, but a pro-McConnell group is running newspaper ads linking her with President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, an independent super PAC, ran a full-page ad Sunday in The Paducah Sun that showed photos of Grimes, Obama and Pelosi, all Democrats.

"Alison Lundergan Grimes says she's 'listening ...'" the ad says. "But who is she listening to?"

It continues: "When Alison Lundergan Grimes attacks Kentucky's Senator Mitch McConnell for 'obstruction,' she's signaling to Washington liberals that she would rubber-stamp the Obama-Pelosi agenda that McConnell is defending Kentuckians from."

The ad specifically mentions McConnell's opposition to an overhaul of health insurance laws and Environmental Protection Agency regulations affecting the coal industry, among other things.

The political action committee ran a similar ad last month in The Kentucky Enquirer and indicated Wednesday that more might be in the offing.

Grimes' political adviser, Jonathan Hurst, called the ads "false attacks that show just how scared Mitch McConnell and his supporters are."

"These types of tactics are what voters have had enough of," Hurst said.

Grimes, who is in her first term as secretary of state, is considered by many Democrats the party's top choice to run against McConnell. She told reporters on April 23 that she will give the decision "due diligence," and she offered no timetable in making it.

Some Democrats had expected her to make a decision before Thursday night's Wendell Ford Dinner in Louisville, but that now appears unlikely.

Riggs Lewis, director of Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, said the ads challenge Grimes to identify which of Obama's policies she would approve that McConnell has opposed.

"Grimes' reliance on liberal talking points from Washington shows she is not ready for prime time and would work for Obama instead of Kentucky in Washington," he said via email.

The PAC, which was formed in April, based its ad on Grimes' use of the word "obstruction" in a May 2 report by Louisville's WHAS-TV.

Grimes told the station that McConnell is "the very essence of what's wrong with Washington right now."

"Kentuckians are tired of the obstruction, they are tired of the failed policies and they are looking for new leadership," Grimes said.

Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, said the PAC's ad is a "pre-emptive strike" that attempts to define Grimes as a liberal before she has a chance to introduce herself to many potential voters.

"President Obama is not well liked in this state," Clayton said. "The ad plays well with values most Kentuckians espouse."

Earlier this year, McConnell's campaign and another conservative group took a similar tack when they released online videos mocking the political stances of actress Ashley Judd, who was considering a challenge to McConnell at the time.

That effort was largely effective because "Judd already was known as a liberal," said Clayton.

Unlike Judd, Grimes' views on many major issues are not known yet, he said. But if Grimes continues to stretch out her decision about facing McConnell, a "constant pounding" by conservatives could hurt her future political aspirations, he said.

Clayton said it's tough to know whether Grimes' indecision is keeping other Democrats from entering the race. That political situation is known as "freezing the field."

"Conventional wisdom says every day you are not in the race it's another day (away) from raising campaign funds," Clayton said. "No one who is running against Mitch McConnell can wait until the 11th hour to run against his machine."

Other Democrats weighing a possible bid against McConnell include former Miss America Heather French Henry of Louisville, Lexington attorney and former state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer, and environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald of Louisville.

Owensboro contractor Ed Marksberry and Louisville musician and music promoter Bennie J. Smith of Louisville have said they will seek the Democratic nomination, but neither has a statewide following.

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