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June 2012
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OVERDONE In race heaped with analysis, McConnell holds all the cards

A couple of weeks ago Kentucky coach John Calipari lamented that his talented but inexperienced basketball squad is "the most overanalyzed team I've ever seen in the history of the game."

But in the realm of things in Kentucky that are being overanalyzed, Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign might be able to give the Wildcats a run for their money by November.

From the time last summer when opponents to McConnell emerged from both the Democratic Party and the tea party, pundits have written copiously about how McConnell may be facing political Armageddon. Count us as skeptical.

Consider the latest Associated Press installment on the race, which appeared in Sunday's Paducah Sun (including an extended version on Paducah Sun Online).

In referencing the May 20 primary, in which McConnell will face tea party candidate Matt Bevin, the article says McConnell "will hold an edge in name recognition and money" and goes on to analyze how the race may play out "if (McConnell) survives the primary." The article notes that Bevin is spending $600,000 of his own money and is drawing "respectable sums" from conservative groups and individuals.

We find that summation of the primary a bit thin. The $600,000 Bevin has committed might make him competitive in a race for state senate, but it's chump change in the U.S. Senate race. USA Today reported on January 31 that McConnell has $10.9 million in cash reserves and is raising money at the rate of roughly $2.3 million every three months.

McConnell's fall Democrat opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes by comparison has $3.5 million in the bank and Bevin has $900,000. So the AP article takes considerable license when it says McConnell will "hold an edge" in money when he faces Bevin May 20.

Where the AP article runs further amiss is when it suggests McConnell might not survive the primary. An article a week ago in the online publication Politico noted that McConnell leads Bevin by nearly 30 points in several polls, including a recent Louisville Courier-Journal poll that has McConnell up 55 percent to 29 percent.

If it were a 10 point difference, that would be one thing, but when someone is 25 points down in every poll in the middle of February and has less than $1 million to spend, it's a stretch to call that a competitive race.

In fairness, the Politico story notes that the Courier-Journal poll has Grimes four points ahead of McConnell in a theoretical match-up in the fall. But there are other indications that Grimes' efforts are struggling. The USA Today story noted that Grimes raised $2.1 million in the last three months of 2013, less than McConnell and perhaps of more concern, $400,000 less than in the previous quarter.

Grimes also will have a difficult time in the fall overcoming her history as an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention and a video that has surfaced in which she says she supports Obama's vision for America.

Obama was crushed in Kentucky in the last election and polls show he remains very unpopular in the state, even across party lines. Grimes is just a couple of attack ads away from being 10 points down, and it's a certainty those ads will be plentiful once Bevin is dispatched.

We can understand why many in the media would like to see the nation's top GOP leader face a close race. Issues of bias aside, it would be an interesting story. But we think by November the media will be looking somewhere other than Kentucky to find a close race.

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