Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and a 30-year veteran of Congress’ upper chamber, has defeated Democratic challenger Alison Lundergran Grimes, NBC news projects.
McConnell, whose high unfavorable ratings gave Democrats a rare opportunity to pick up a GOP-held seat this year, survived a Tea Party primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin this spring, setting up a general election contest with Grimes, whom McConnell assailed as a stooge of national Democrats.
Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, ran a moderate, cautious campaign, joining McConnell in denouncing the so-called “war on coal,” calling herself a “Clinton Democrat,” and refusing to say whether she supported President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Running on the message “Obama needs Grimes, and Kentucky needs Mitch McConnell,” the Republican overcame his high negatives in part by making the race a referendum on the president, who is deeply unpopular in Kentucky.
While McConnell’s victory represents a disappointment for Democrats who hoped to topple him, it was hardly unexpected. With just one exception, McConnell led in every poll conducted after June.