Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEverytown plans ad blitz on anniversary of House background check bill Kentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms MORE (R-Ky.) easily overcame an ultimately disappointing challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes on Tuesday night, according to multiple outlets, winning reelection to a sixth term.

If Republicans take back the Senate, McConnell is all but certain to be named majority leader.


Though public polls had given McConnell the edge for the past eight weeks, the loss was still heartbreaking for Democrats, who had high hopes for the Kentucky secretary of State.

National Democrats, after withdrawing from the race two weeks ago, rushed back in with a final round of ads due to private polling showing the race shifting in Grimes's direction. Her own internal polling showed the two tied last week, however, and ultimately the GOP turnout in the heavily Republican state was too much for Grimes to overcome.

She wasn’t their first pick, but Democrats felt the youthful Grimes provided a strong contrast to McConnell, whose greatest weakness was always his personal unpopularity in the state and the perception of him as an emblem of Washington dysfunction.

But as McConnell marginally improved his standing among Kentuckians, Grimes’s popularity declined, her image hurt by frequent gaffes and missteps that contributed to a perception of her as unprepared for the rigors of the Senate and hampered by a too-cautious campaign.

That was a primary Republican attack against her, but ultimately the GOP’s most damaging blow was likely its efforts to tie her to President Obama and what it labeled his “War on Coal.” The coal industry is crucial to the state’s economy, particularly in Kentucky’s GOP-heavy rural areas.

The race drew millions in outside spending — about $21 million boosting McConnell, and $15 million from pro-Grimes forces, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — and millions from the candidates themselves.

Grimes, helped by her father, a key figure in Kentucky Democratic politics, as well as major Hollywood donors, raised nearly $17.5 million as of mid-October. McConnell raised nearly $28 million, a sizable portion of which went to staving off a primary challenge from the right.

"While tonight didn't bring us the result we had hoped for, this journey, the fight for you, it was worth it,” Grimes said in a brief concession speech.

McConnell handily dispatched that challenge with help from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Pelosi names first-ever House whistleblower ombudsman director The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ky.), who lent him some of his conservative cred by endorsing the senior senator and hitting the campaign trail for him throughout the race.

Paul praised McConnell in a speech at the senator’s victory party Tuesday night, and predicted that should McConnell become majority leader, the Senate would pass bills to boost economic growth.

Paul said that McConnell's victory against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes earlier Tuesday night was a referendum against President Obama.

But the younger senator, considered a likely presidential contender, also hinted at the potential challenge that awaits McConnell if he takes the helm of the Senate. Paul called for the “repeal of every last vestige of ObamaCare,” red meat for conservatives but a move that McConnell has suggested may be unlikely in recent comments.

Kevin Cirilli and Jesse Byrnes contributed reporting.