April 9, 2013
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ( Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ( Alex Wong/Getty Images)

I love a good, gossipy politics story, and so far the Mitch McConnell/Mother Jones story is certainly a fun one, with plenty of charges and countercharges and even an appearance by a real Hollywood celebrity.

But for those of you who would rather skip all of that and get to the point, it’s very simple: Mitch McConnell is a perpetually and currently unpopular Republican politician in a state which is increasingly tough for Democrats. His solution? Turn his reelection race, if at all possible, into a referendum on San Francisco liberals (such as San Francisco based Mother Jones), or at least Kentucky liberals, and not on himself.

This is the obvious playbook for McConnell, who survived a real scare the last time he ran in 2008, beating a fairly generic Democratic challenger by only six points. He’s not personally popular; one pollster finds him, indeed, to have the lowest approval rating of any senator. However, Kentucky has become a solidly Republican state, especially in national politics. Indeed, from 2000 on it’s been one of the most Republican-leaning in presidential elections, and Mitt Romney ran more than 25 points better than his national margin against President Obama.

So the strategy for Democrats is to nominate some generic low-profile nobody and hope that people will vote yes or no on McConnell; the strategy for McConnell is to ask people whether or not they like Washington — or Chicago, or New York, or San Francisco — liberals.

Which is why of course McConnell is going to highlight things like today’s flap (or, in a far more justified way, the flap over a slur tweeted by a Kentucky liberal group). Anything to shift the focus to national Democrats and away from himself. Because an election about Mitch McConnell could be a close one in Kentucky, but an election about liberal groups surely won’t be.