It’s closing time in the hard-fought Kentucky Senate race. You can tell this because combatants Alison Lundergan Grimes (Democrat) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (Republican) are hauling out their most powerful weapons for the final days of the 2014 mid-term election campaign.
For Ms. Grimes, that’s Hillary Rodham Clinton. For Senator McConnell, it’s bloodhounds. Yes, actual canines. More on them in a second.
First, Mrs. Clinton. The former Secretary of State and presidential candidate front-runner has been the most sought-after Democratic campaign surrogate this year. She’s already been to Kentucky to campaign for Grimes, a family friend, and now she’s returning for a swing through Lexington and the northern part of the state on Saturday.
This means the Democratic Party thinks Grimes has at least a fighting chance to topple the Senate’s sitting minority leader. Clinton’s time is valuable and they’re not going to send her anywhere they feel the battle is lost.
“It’s very exciting,” Col Owens, Kenton County Democratic chairman, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “There’s really nothing in the history of my involvement of politics that comes close to this election and Alison’s candidacy – the race, the local interest, the national attention. It’s high drama.”
Clinton’s also the focus of a just-released Grimes ad that’s softish and uplifting in the manner of many end-of-campaign spots. It’s mostly a tape of her previous appearance with the Kentucky Democrat, intercut with audience reaction shots and soaring music.
No, there’s no reference to Clinton’s recent gaffetastic statement that “businesses don’t create jobs.” She’s been trying to walk that cat back into the bag.
Meanwhile, McConnell’s not exactly out there alone shaking hands with prospective voters. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a White House aspirant himself, will fly into the state for a round of appearances on Wednesday.
But McConnell’s big gun for the final days might be dogs.
It’s no secret that Kentucky voters don’t see McConnell as genial. His approval rating in the state is underwater – a recent Bluegrass Poll found that 38 percent of respondents had a favorable impression of the senior Kentucky senator, while 47 percent had an unfavorable impression. (Grimes’s numbers are only marginally better, at 40 percent favorable to 43 percent unfavorable.)
So for the final push McConnell wants to try and improve his overall image. So his latest ad for the campaign's final week is kind of lighthearted, kind of fun.
It depicts the senator meeting with a variety of campaign consultants proposing a whole range of ideas for spots. They see him between two trucks.
“That sounds dangerous,” replies McConnell.
They see him with a talking baby. They see him with . . . bloodhounds.
“That’s not going to work,” says McConnell.
Long story short, he ends the ad sitting on a stool while a batch of bloodhounds, which appear to have been multiplied by CGI or something, mill about licking his hand and behaving adorably.
“You know, maybe this isn’t such a bad idea,” McConnell says at the close.
Lots of Kentucky voters will probably know that the dogs are a reference to a defining ad that McConnell ran in his first Senate run in 1984. They were a pack supposedly hunting down then-incumbent Sen. Walter "Dee" Huddleston (D), who was off giving paid speeches when he should have been voting, according to the narrator.
Will the bloodhound reprise make people who don’t like McConnell see him differently?
“Probably not. Is it a smart idea for a guy with image problems a week before the election? Probably,” writes Nia-Malika Henderson at The Fix political blog of The Washington Post.
This race has been tight but McConnell has a clear lead heading into the final days. The RealClearPolitics rolling average of major surveys has him in front of Grimes by 4.4 percentage points.