The divisive issue of abortion has moved front and center in Kentucky's high-profile U.S. Senate race.
Praising Monday's Supreme Court decision that rejected the contraceptives mandate for some Christian corporations, Sen. Mitch McConnell said he and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, are clearly at odds over abortion rights.
"There is a clear distinction between myself and my opponent on this issue," he said in an editorial board meeting at The Paducah Sun.
"Today's Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear. Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)."
McConnell was among 15 current members of Congress who voted for RFRA in 1993.
Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, criticized the court's ruling.
"I think the Supreme Court got it wrong today regarding corporations. In cases where employers are found to be exempt from requirements that they provide such coverage, affordable insurance should be made available," she said.
Grimes has stated the issue of abortion should not be dictated by government, but should be a woman's choice.
"I support the right of all American women to have full access to contraception and respect the exemption of churches from providing this service if it is against their teachings," she said.
McConnell's comments follow his talk Saturday at the National Right to Life Convention in Louisville where he pledged support for a bill that would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy - legislation he said he would push through if elected Senate majority leader following November's election. "Kentucky is a pro-life state," he noted. "What I said wasn't anything I haven't said before."
Abortion previously hasn't been a big topic in the hotly contested Senate campaign, which has been dominated by sparring over the economy, health care and the role of the Environmental Protection Agency. As for the campaign, the most recent polls are a mixed bag. McConnell called attention to an internal poll conducted by his campaign last week which shows him holding a seven-point lead.
But according to a survey released the day before by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP), Grimes leads McConnell 48 to 46 percent.
The close contest is expected to break records as the most expensive Senate race ever. "I wouldn't be surprised," McConnell said. "As government gets bigger, people want to have an impact. For most Americans, the way to do that is to contribute to a candidate or a cause of their choice. I personally don't think that's bad." This is McConnell's sixth run.
According to McConnell, the last time he ran for Senate before he was named minority leader, he spent $6.5 million and received 64 percent of the vote. In 2008, he raised $21 million for his re-election campaign and claimed victory by 6 percent.
"When the stakes are big, the interest and the funding go up," McConnell said. "It'll be competitive all the way to the end."
Asked what citizens can do who grow weary of all the TV commercials, McConnell smiled and said, "Just hit the mute button."
Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.