U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and potential Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes are tied in a new poll of Kentucky voters, though state Republicans are calling the results a "sham."
The poll, by Public Policy Polling, stated that McConnell and Grimes were each supported by 45 percent of Kentucky voters. In April, a PPP poll showed Grimes trailing by 4 points. In December, she trailed by 7 points.
The PPP poll was paid for by the Senate Majority PAC, an organization founded with the help of Democratic U.S. Senator Harry Reid, the current majority leader.
Republicans are characterizing the results as "push polling"—a poll that tries to influence answers through the questions asked.
The PPP poll's critics say the questions directly comment about McConnell, his tenure in the Senate or some of his votes, rather than asking more simple questions as scientific polls often do.
The former Miss America has joined a list of half a dozen party activists or leaders waiting for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to decide whether she'll run in 2014 against Mitch McConnell for his U.S. Senate seat.
If Grimes run, she's likely to get enough support to clear out the field. Otherwise, the Democrats have potential candidates known within political circles, but who may be not instantly recognizable with the majority of voters—former state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gorman or environmental activist Tom FitzGerald, for example.
Without Grimes, Democrats may find themselves with a crowded primary—and that would cause problems in a bid to unseat McConnell, who polls suggest is vulnerable, says Dewey Clayton, a political scientist for the University of Louisville.
Governor Beshear has some strong words about the state's senior U.S. Senator. During a visit to Bowling Green Wednesday, Beshear told WKU Public Radio that he thinks Republican Mitch McConnell symbolizes the partisan bickering and obstructionism that has plagued Washington D.C. recently.
"And of course Sen. McConnell has been a part of that for the past 30 years. It's gotten worse, it hasn't gotten better. And he's gotten to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. So I think people are looking for a change," said Beshear. "We just have to give them a good alternative."
Beshear says he believes Senator McConnell would be "vulnerable" against a strong Democratic challenge next year.
McConnell has said he's ready to defend his record against any challengers during the 2014 Senate contest, and believes the majority of Kentuckians support his efforts to block key parts of President Obama's agenda.
McConnell has been amassing a campaign war chest and staffers to help his re-election efforts. Scott Jennings, a longtime Kentucky GOP operative who is working with two SuperPacs that support McConnell, says the Republican incumbent has attracted a great deal of support based on his legislative work in Washington.
"And I think that's why you're seeing such an early formation of a political apparatus designed to re-elect him, because he's done a good job and he's done right by the state of Kentucky and that's why you have some of these folks doing what they're doing," Jennings recently told Kentucky Public Radio.
Democrats have yet to land a high-profile challenger to take on McConnell next year.
As the scandal surrounding the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS continues, some Kentucky tea party activists are upset with Senator Mitch McConnell's role in the process—even as the state party is asking them to support him.
In Kentucky, only the statewide 9/12 project has come forward to acknowledge that they were targeted and that they were rejecting the IRS' apology on the matter.
But that hasn't stopped Kentucky politicians, including McConnell, from consistently pointing to the issue. He's demanded a full investigation into the matter.
The Republican Party of Kentucky is circulating a letter to back up McConnell on his efforts, asking tea party activists in Kentucky to sign it.
But Kentucky tea party activist David Adams called the attempts opportunistic.
Kenny Colston's report on Kentucky's 2014 U.S. Senate race
Senator Mitch McConnell's next election is a year and a half away, and he doesn't have a serious opponent. But this hasn't stopped him from amassing significant money and personnel for his re-election.
Every week, new field directors, political staff and fundraisers join the effort to re-elect McConnell. But while they have the same goal, they don't have the same boss. Some of the staffers work for McConnell's campaign. Others are paid by the Republican Party of Kentucky, while some answer to various SuperPACs.
Scott Jennings is in that last category. He's a longtime political operative who has worked on two presidential campaigns and for McConnell in the past. This year, he's working with the newly-formed Kentuckians for Strong Leadership and the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which has just begun running ads supporting conservative ideas.
Jennings controls those organizations from an East Louisville office, which he shares with the PR firm he founded this year.
Jennings says conservative interest in the race has picked up now because supporters respect the role McConnell has played in blocking President Barack Obama's agenda.
Governor Steve Beshear is criticizing the secret recording of a campaign meeting of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell that was leaked.
Two members of Progress Kentucky, Shawn Reilly and Curt Morrison, have been implicated by a Jefferson County Democratic official as being behind who secretly recorded the McConnell meeting.
Kentucky Democratic leaders have been largely silent on the situation since the news broke last week. But after being asked Wednesday about the recording, Beshear said he found the whole situation—both the secret taping and McConnell's remarks — to be awful.
"I think it's deplorable, just in general, about taping conversations and that kind of thing. I find it about as deplorable as I do Senator McConnell's political tactics that he was talking about," Beshear says.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has banked nearly $13 million for his re-election campaign, including more than $1.8 million since January, according to a financial report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday.
The FEC filing also shows he still has more than $8.6 million on hand.
"Mitch's popularity and deep, longstanding support make him the most prolific fundraiser in the game," said campaign manager Jesse Benton. "We are building the best statewide campaign America has ever seen, and will work hard to make Kentucky proud."
The latest report shows McConnell with an enormous head start over any potential rivals, although no serious challengers have stepped forward so far.
One of two members of Progress Kentucky who allegedly recorded a campaign meeting between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his campaign staff is now saying he was "just a witness" through his attorneys.
Progress Kentucky Executive Director Shawn Reilly denies any wrongdoing. As first reported by WHAS 11, Reilly says he was merely at McConnell's office when the recording happened.
His attorneys are putting the blame solely on Curtis Morrison, a volunteer with the liberal Super PAC. Reilly's attorneys have not returned multiple calls to them since Friday.
Mother Jones magazine published the secret recording earlier this week, and legal experts say it could be considered eavesdropping. But Louisville criminal defense lawyer Brendan McLeod says just being a witness to eavesdropping is murkier legal grounds.
An attorney for Shawn Reilly, one of the members of the liberal group Progress Kentucky who was implicated in the McConnell office recording, says his client did nothing wrong when he and another member of the group went to the Senator's Louisville campaign office in early February.
Attorney Ted Shouse is quoted in the Courier-Journal as saying neither Reilly or Curtis Morrison, another member of Progress Kentucky, broke any laws.
Jefferson County Democratic Party official Jacob Conway told Kentucky Public Radio earlier this week that he overheard Reilly and Morrison bragging about recording a McConnell campaign re-election strategy meeting Feb. 2. According to Conway, the two men said they were in a hallway outside the office when they made the secret recording, which they later turned over to Mother Jones.
Mother Jones has since published audio excerpts from the meeting. McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton says the FBI spent an hour inside the Republican Senator's office Wednesday, investigating the possible source of the audio recording. Benton says the McConnell office wants those responsible prosecuted.