Democrats are demanding Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) condemn a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman's characterization of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes as "an empty dress."
The campaign of Lundergan Grimes, the leading Democrat challenging McConnell in 2014, has decried the remark as "degrading and offensive."
In an email to The Hill on Monday, NRSC Communications Director Brad Dayspring called Lundergan Grimes "an empty dress" because of her reluctance to elaborate her position on a number of hot-button issues, even as she presses McConnell for details of his own.
Dayspring also charged that Lundergan Grimes attacks McConnell with talking points used by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“Alison Lundergan Grimes seems incapable of articulating her own thoughts, and faced with questions, either directly parrots the talking points handed to her by [Sen.] Chuck Schumer or she babbles incoherently and stares blankly into the camera as though she’s a freshman in high school struggling to remember the CliffsNotes after forgetting to read her homework assignment,” Dayspring told The Hill.
"They say you can't be something with nothing, but Alison Lundergan Grimes seems determined to test that theory. She's an empty dress," he added.
Lundergan Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton charged that the comment, which she characterized as coming from McConnell's team, is "appalling … degrading and offensive," and called for the senator to condemn it.
"It shows his team's true feelings towards women and continues his disgraceful pattern of not standing up for the women of Kentucky," Norton told The Hill, noting some of his votes against the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Pay Act.
In an email to The Hill, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy press secretary Reagan Page called the comment "despicably offensive" and said it was "consistent with McConnell's long history of leading the war on women."
"After all, just last week McConnell tried to take credit for passage of the Violence Against Women Act despite the fact that he's repeatedly voted against it, and touted the endorsement of Todd Akin's biggest fan Mike Huckabee. McConnell should call on this staffer to apologize," Page said.
McConnell's campaign declined to comment, but NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen told the New York Daily News that Dayspring was simply using a "common alliteration" to point out that "Alison Lundergan Grimes has a frighteningly poor grasp of the major issues of the day."
"The NRSC used a common alliteration based on what the candidate wore to
her own campaign announcement and frequently on the campaign trail and
the fact that media reports have simultaneously labeled some of her
stated policy positions as 'incomprehensible,'" she said.
McConnell's campaign, at a launch event for his women's coalition last week, circulated a flier that included a quote from a woman praising the senator for being a co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act. That bill never got a vote in the Senate, and McConnell has subsequently voted against VAWA reauthorization at least three times.
Democrats believe the Senate Minority Leader is beatable in 2014 because of polling that shows him unpopular in Kentucky, and they see his position on women's issues as one opening for attacks.
Lundergan Grimes, as a young, female candidate, is well-poised to take advantage of that opening. But she remains the underdog in a race against one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington, who has already amassed a near-$10-million war chest for his reelection fight and is expected to raise at least twice that by next November.
--This post was updated at 3:34 p.m. to reflect comment from the NRSC.