Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), who is trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) this fall, appeared before the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board on Thursday to make her pitch for their endorsement. The life-long Democrat, whose father represented Kentucky for the party in the state House and who herself has been on the ballot in the state on the Democratic ticket, was asked a simple question. Did she vote for President Obama in 2008 and 2012?
And she didn't answer. Repeatedly.
In an interesting nod to the times, the interview was streamed live, meaning that it took no time at all for Republicans to clip the non-answer and put it online.
Obama is far more unpopular in Kentucky than he is in the rest of the country. Polling last month had his approval rating in the state at about 30 percent, the sort of numbers that wouldn't earn him a victory in the state if he were to run again, not that he won it in 2008 or 2012.
Grimes tries to pivot off of the board's question (for some reason!) by linking herself to Hillary Clinton. There's not a lot of good data on Clinton's approval in Kentucky, but at least the state voted for her husband twice. If you have to be a type of Democrat in Kentucky, be a "Clinton Democrat" as Grimes puts it. Fine.
But there was no reason to do this. Grimes is fairly new on the national scene, but she's not new enough not to know how to answer this fairly simply. "Yes, I voted for him," you say, "but I've been disappointed by a lot of the things he's done, particularly on COAL and JOBS and GUNS" or whatever. It's simple. And then you can say, "but I backed Hillary in the primary" and so on and so on. 2008 was a landmark year, a wave for Democrats, when Obama's approval was sky-high. Of course she voted for him! Dodging the question looks like she's trying to hide her position, which is never the face you want to show -- particularly when conservatives are accusing her of hiding her positions on other things.
This isn't the sorts of incident that makes or breaks a candidate. It's one of the little ruts on the long road they'll be traveling for the next 26 days. But it's a mistake, and in a race in which Grimes needs everything to go her way, this little bit of bad driving is the sort of thing she should both know to avoid and know how to avoid.