As soon as the polls closed across Kentucky at 7 pm eastern time, the Associated Press -- and every one else -- called the race for Mitch McConnell. For McConnell, it was his sixth straight victory and came 30 years after he first beat then Sen. Walter "Dee" Huddleston (D) to win the seat. It came after an extended campaign in which Democrats spent months (and months) insisting that McConnell's time had finally come and that Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was the candidate to knock him off.
But, Democrats swung and missed. Again. Given his 6-0 record over the past three decades, it's worth examining what McConnell does right.
1. He knows what he's bad at. Most politicians are aware of their strengths. Far fewer are able to honestly assess their weaknesses. McConnell is one of the best at the latter. (Know who else is? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.) He knows he's not very charismatic or telegenic. So, he doesn't try to be. He doesn't try to charm voters -- aside from occasionally appearing with puppies in ads -- and makes no apologies for his seriousness. McConnell tries not to make himself the issue in races because he knows he's a mostly behind-the-scenes guy whose strength is in strategy not speeches.
2. He has a very good political team -- and has for a long time. Media consultant Larry McCarthy and pollster Jan van Lohuizen have been with McConnell forever. Josh Holmes, who managed the final weeks of the campaign, is a longtime McConnell guy. They know McConnell ,and he knows and trusts them. It's hard to overestimate how important that is in the context of a campaign. McConnell and his team know what he can and should do and, per point #1 above -- what he shouldn't.
3. He's always prepared. McConnell doesn't get taken by surprise. He raises a ton of money -- $27 million and counting for this race -- and never lets his political operation rust. He understands unlike some of his colleagues -- Pat Roberts, we are looking at you -- that simply having spent a long time in the Senate is not a guarantee that people will continue to vote for you.
4. He attacks. And doesn't apologize. No one this side of Harry Reid is more effective at finding the one (or two or three) things about an opponent that voters don't like and then hammering away at that thing over and over and over again. For this race it was Grimes' connection to President Obama -- because, well, they are both Democrats. McConnell stayed on that message like a dog on a bone. And it worked.
5. He represents Kentucky. As McConnell has continued to win over the last few decades, Kentucky has grown more and more conservative. McConnell benefits from the fact that President Obama won just 38 percent in the state in 2012 and that late polling in this race showed Obama in the low 30s in approval rating. Picking fights on favorable territory is the mark of any smart pol.