Last week, Kentucky State Auditor Crit Luallen, a popular elected official who had been courted by the DSCC to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, opted against a Senate bid.
Following that news, attorney, Marine and Iraq War Veteran Andrew Horne, who ran for Congress last year in Kentucky's 3rd District, has decided to jump into the Senate race.
Here’s an excerpt from his press release:
I’m running for U.S. Senate because it's time for a change and because Senator Mitch McConnell is more than part of the problem. He IS the problem.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader, symbolizes everything wrong with Washington. He bows to big business, practices the worst kind of politics, and doesn’t take a stand when faced with tough issues. Simply put: Mitch McConnell carries George Bush’s water on Iraq; I carried a rifle in Iraq.
Horne, at least, clearly shows no hesitation about going hard after McConnell. That’s critical, because McConnell certainly won’t pull any punches.
It’s hard to get an indication of what his chances are at this point. In his 2006 race in KY-03, Horne lost quite badly in the Democratic primary, by nearly 20 points. His fundraising was respectable enough, but he’ll have to step it up dramatically for a race against McConnell, a master fundraiser, obsessed with money, with $10 million already stacked up for the race.
Horne has never held elected office, and he has limited name recognition outside Jefferson County at this point.
Still, McConnell is vulnerable. He’s faced a number of difficult races in his time, his approval ratings have not been great, and he’s become one of the most prominent faces of an unpopular Republican Party.
Dissatisfaction with McConnell is sufficient that Larry Forgy, an unsuccessful 1995 candidate for Governor (who lost to Democrat Paul Patton) is apparently seriously considering entering the race.
Not as a Republican, though. As an indie.
A spirited primary challenge against McConnell would have helped us; a guy running to the right of McConnell in the general election is even better.
Horne isn’t necessarily going to be alone, either. Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo and businessman Greg Fischer are considering the race as well. Several independent polls have shown Stumbo competitive with McConnell, holding him under 50% in head-to-head races.
I suspect that the DSCC, having failed to get their preferred candidate, Crit Luallen, in the race, is probably going to adopt a wait-and-see approach in Kentucky. If Horne (or someone else) gets traction, they’ll step in and help (as they did in Virginia in 2006), but they may not be in right from the get-go.
This race has been compared to Virginia last cycle, both for the reason I mentioned above, and because, I think, people want to see Horne as a new Jim Webb.
Leaving the Horne/Webb comparison aside, I think here are the differences between this race and Virginia last year. For one, McConnell actually is somewhat less popular than Allen was at this point in 2005. I certainly don't remember Allen polling under 50% in 2005, nor facing the threat of a primary or independent challenge from the right. That said, I also wouldn’t expect McConnell to make a macaca-esque blunder.
He has made some highly offensive remarks, about our soldiers, of course:
Nobody is happy about losing lives, but remember, these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers
Horne, himself an Iraq War veteran, is just one of those professional soldiers for whose lives Mitch McConnell shows such concern. He has a sharp response:
I would say that Mitch McConnell owes every member of our service and the families of the fallen an apology, but no apology from him can take back the venom he has spewed at our troops, this time. For anyone to believe that casualties of war are somehow more acceptable because they were not draftees is disgusting. For the Republican leader in the United States Senate to say that is beyond repugnant."
"This is just Mitch McConnell once again demonstrating that he has no idea of - and has no interest in learning - what our troops have sacrificed.
There may be more movement in this race, as we're still waiting to hear what Stumbo, Fischer and Forgy are going to do.
At a minimum, we now have a candidate in the Kentucky Senate race who can, and will, draw a clear distinction between himself and Mitch McConnell on Iraq.
On the web:
Andrew Horne for U.S. Senate