Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath clearly hasn't convinced enough Kentucky progressives she's earned a coronation in 2020 ahead of challenging Republican Mitch McConnell.

"McGrath has a ton of money to get her message out, and it's not a message resonating with people," said Cassia Herron, chairwoman of Kentuckians for The Commonwealth, a left-leaning grassroots group.

McGrath is still the front-runner with more than $10 million and backing from such party bigwigs as U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and Senate minority leader.

But Herron said many of her group's roughly 12,000 members want to know more about the other Democrats who are running, such as health care professional Steve Cox and farmer Mike Broihier. She also said many are asking more questions about freshman state Rep. Charles Booker, of Louisville, who isn't officially in the race.

"I think what we need is a real primary with really strong candidates to activate the base," said Herron, of Louisville. "People need choices and that's what's exciting about a Booker campaign is that it's a different choice -- he's not McGrath."

The thinking here is similar to the strategy espoused by Rep. John Yarmuth, Kentucky's only Democrat in Washington. Remember, he was the one who publicly suggested McGrath needed a primary after her rocky rollout.

The thinking behind the Yarmuth strategy is that a contested primary would attract younger and more diverse voters, especially in the state's urban centers. It puts higher value on getting a massive turnout in Democratic areas as well.

Those who want a contested primary believe building a broader progressive network against Team Mitch matters more than trying to persuade Trump voters to vote Democratic. It also rejects the idea that the primary should be about strengthening an anointed front-runner.

Meanwhile, some of McGrath's rivals are openly saying other candidates should stay out of the race.

Other progressives see it differently, warning that an intense primary would weaken the winner.

Virginia Meagher is the leader of Indivisible Southeastern Kentucky, a liberal movement born immediately after President Donald Trump took office. She said she doesn't think Democrats need another candidate to enter the race.

"If one person files we can start right away after the January deadline promoting that person," she said. "The fact the primary isn't until May makes it more difficult for us, especially people like me who prefer to be positive."

McGrath's poor debut remains a roadblock for some, however. Those voters seem unwilling to get past how she said during the summer that she briefly supported the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court until Democratic donors nationwide howled.

Chris Kolb, a progressive and member of the Jefferson County Public Schools board, said some mainstream Kentucky Democrats are skeptical about McGrath.

"It's really tough I think to make up for such a botched rollout of your campaign," he said. "She instantly flip-flopped on Kavanaugh and promoted herself as a pro-Trump Democrat. Even if one was inclined to support her, those sorts of things instantly threw up some red flags and sent most people looking for an alternative to her."

Meagher, who remains undecided, said McGrath's naysayers need to get over her bad start.

"I'm past that," she said. "I'm just totally thrilled that a woman is running who is a veteran, which is really important out here in Eastern Kentucky."

Instead, the Jackson, Kentucky, activist emphasized that state and national Democrats must make defeating McConnell the priority.

"I intend to make whoever that person is electable with a whole team of people in Kentucky," Meagher added. "I think any of them just about would be better than McConnell on the issues, and I intend along with a whole team of people in Kentucky to make that person electable."

Ryan Quarles for governor in 2023?

Republican mega-donors already are asking who will carry the torch in the way-too-early-to-even-think-about 2023 gubernatorial primary.

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, of Georgetown, is top among the list of major givers looking for the party's heir to Matt Bevin.

If you noticed, the 36-year-old former legislator gave Gov.-elect Andy Beshear a friendly reminder he'll be watching on behalf of rural Kentuckians.

"I am looking forward to meeting with Governor-Elect Andy Beshear later today," Quarles said in a Nov. 21 tweet. "Whether it is ag tech, hunger, or hemp, there are areas of cooperation available. I hope the Governor-Elect will listen to the concerns of our ag community as the transition moves forward."

Others to keep an eye on are U.N. Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft, who is often mentioned. And of course, U.S. Rep. James Comer, whose heart remains in the Bluegrass after losing to Bevin by a 83 votes in the 2015 primary.

Republican consultant Ben Hartman, who ran Bevin's 2015 campaign, said there are too many moving parts to predict who will emerge.

But the GOP is in a great position no matter what happens, he said.

"I do firmly believe whoever the Republican nominee is in four years is going to win the general election pretty easily," Hartman said. "And I think a different Republican nominee this time could have probably won the general election fairly easily as well."

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