Sen. Mitch McConnell

Democrats are surprisingly excited that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes decided to challenge Mitch McConnell (R) in next year’s Senate race. While she is technically a top tier recruit, if this were a normal election cycle or if all Senate races took place the same year, this announcement would not garner the same level of attention.

Kentucky heavily leans Republican in federal elections. McConnell has an impressive fundraising and political operation in the state. While his favorable rating is not great, he is not facing any major scandals. This is a strong place for an incumbent.

If Democrats had any better options they would be likely focused elsewhere, but they don’t. Because of the staggered nature of Senate elections, the map is so bad for Democrats next year their only thin ray of hope for picking up a seat is Kentucky and Georgia. Of the two, Kentucky actually looks the most promising right now.

One could argue that faced with this map it would make more sense for Democrats to spend everything simply defending the seats they currently hold, but it is very tough to rally the base with what is basically a message of “help make sure we don’t lose too badly.” At the very least, for psychological reasons Democrats need to be on the offense somewhere so that will likely be Kentucky. As a result, McConnell will probably face a tougher election fight than he would have if there were any better targets this year.

Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license