Home | Opinion | Markos Moulitsas

Markos Moulitsas: McConnell imperiled

The Senate race in Kentucky pitting Republican Leader Mitch McConnell against Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is fated to be a barn burner. 

McConnell doesn’t have a history of dominant electoral victories, having won his 2008 battle by a mere 53 percent to 47 percent margin, despite outspending his Democratic opponent 2-1. Grimes, on the other hand, was the top vote getter on the 2011 ballot in the state’s elections, winning with 61 percent of the vote. Of course, Kentucky voters are far more comfortable with Democrats at the state level than at the federal level, but as of now, the two candidates’ advantages and liabilities appear to be canceling themselves out.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Huffington Post polling composite has the race at a dead heat, with McConnell sporting the slimmest 40.5 percent to 39.4 percent lead. Given that McConnell is the incumbent, however, the fact that he is so far below the 50 percent mark is a whopping warning sign. His problems are compounded by a spirited primary challenge to his right — one that has garnered buzz in Tea Party circles. Even if unsuccessful, the threat from his right flank has already squeezed him between the need to appeal in order to survive his primary and appealing to the general electorate. 

Chief among his problems, ironically, is ObamaCare. 

McConnell has made opposition and elimination of the Affordable Care Act a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, calling it a “disaster” and a “huge mistake.” But unfortunately for him, Kentucky might be running the single most effective state exchange under the new law. Unlike the federal site and those of many states, Kentucky’s has been flawless. 

Thus, in one of the nation’s poorest states, the law signifies good things for its citizens. As of now, 640,000 Kentuckians lack health insurance — about 17 percent of the state’s population. As of last week, about 10 percent of those had already signed up for coverage, and the pace of applications is growing, thanks, in part, to an effective $11 million public education campaign. The law is expected to inject $15 billion into Kentucky’s economy over the next eight years and create 17,000 jobs, contrasting with next-door Tennessee, where rural hospitals are laying off workers, cutting services and shutting down because of unyielding opposition from state Republicans to ObamaCare expansion. 

Kentucky is showing the nation what a well-implemented ObamaCare system looks like: It’s good for the uninsured, and it’s good for the state economy. And there’s an even bigger reason Republicans are hell-bent on destroying it: It’s good for Democrats. 

A Washington Post story highlighted enrollees in Kentucky’s rural Breathitt County, such as health clinic worker Ronald Hudson, a father of five making $14,000 a year. “Well thank God,” he said after signing up and finding out he’d finally be insured. “I believe I’m going to be a Democrat.” 

White, rural, Southern males are the last solid Republican constituency. If the GOP starts losing them thanks to ObamaCare, all is lost. 

“Anything short of full repeal leaves us with this monstrosity,” McConnell has said. “The question you should be asking [Grimes] is, are you for or against getting rid of it?” 

Grimes’s answer should be easy enough. More than 60,000 uninsured Kentuckians have already signed up for ObamaCare, and that number is expected to reach nearly 400,000 by the end of the enrollment period. McConnell will be telling every single one of those newly insured that he wants to take away their newfound coverage. 

Good luck with that.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.