Ellison’s Election Tip Sheet

Ellison Barber election tip sheet

SENATE: KENTUCKY

Many red state Democrats have come out as critics of the EPA’s proposed rules to restrict carbon emissions.

Alison Lundergan Grimes was one of those Democrats, but Grimes had a bit of an embarrassing flub toward the end of last week when her campaign sent out a pro-coal ad that said "President Obama and Washington Don’t Get It … Alison Grimes Does." The ad, according to Politico, was accompanied by a picture of a coal miner, but turns out it was not actually a coal miner—it was a European model.

Was this a huge deal? Probably not, but it does provide Republicans with ammunition to "raise doubts about the authenticity of her pro-coal position."

That was further compounded this week when it was reported that Grimes attended a D.C. fundraiser and neglected to defend Kentucky’s coal industry, despite previous promises to address it.

Politico reported:

Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign insisted last week that she’d use a high-dollar fundraiser with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as a forum to promote Kentucky’s coal industry and demand action to protect the use of fossil fuel.

That didn’t happen, according to an audio recording of the 45-minute affair obtained by POLITICO through a source at the event.

Instead, when the Kentucky Democrat spoke at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last Thursday, she stuck to a partisan script, railing against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s record on jobs, the minimum wage, and women’s issues.

The one word she didn’t say during her 11-minute speech: "coal." […]

It’s a notable omission for a campaign that went out of its way last week to say that Grimes would "use the event" to raise concerns about environmental rules that are unpopular in Kentucky. After she was criticized for holding a fundraiser with Reid—whose views against coal are unpopular in her state—her campaign said the event would offer a chance to highlight opposition to newly proposed rules from the Environmental Protection Agency to dramatically cut carbon emissions.

Grimes claims she brought it up privately, but that’s not how she said she would address the issue and this recording makes her seem insincere—like someone who tailors her message solely to benefit a particular audience.

In the last two weeks, Grimes has been slowly undermining her own pro-coal narrative. 

SENATE: ARKANSAS

The latest poll on the Arkansas Senate race finds Rep. Tom Cotton (R.) up by a significant margin, Politico reports:

An internal poll conducted for a conservative Super PAC that has spent more than $1 million helping Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton found that he leads Sen. Mark Pryor by 9 percentage points.

The survey of 600 likely voters conducted June 3-5 by Fabrizio, Lee and Associates has Cotton leading 51 percent to 43 percent, with 5 percent undecided.

In a memo to The Government Integrity Fund, which has been running pro-Cotton ads, pollsters Tony Fabrizio and David Lee note that the Republican does best among those who say they are likeliest to vote and leads by 29 percent, 60-31, among independents.

In midterms, turnout is everything, and I don’t have to remind anyone, Arkansas is one of the key seats Republicans need to overturn in order to take control of the Senate. The most interesting aspect of this poll is that it found Cotton was doing better "among those who say they are likeliest to vote." That’s important, and while Republican-leaning pollsters may have done this poll, it doesn’t bode well for Pryor.

It is worth noting previous polls have shown Pryor to be more popular than Cotton. The fact that Pryor’s father is a former Arkansas senator and governor certainly helps, but Obama’s approval in the state is abysmal.

According to the Washington Post, Pryor votes with his party 88 percent of the time, and that is not something that will increase his voter enthusiasm in Arkansas.

People may see Pryor as likable, but they hate the president. When over 80 percent of Pryor's votes are with the president’s party, it’s hard to believe the narrative that he’s an independent and it’s even more difficult to see people running out to vote for him. 

HOUSE: VIRGINIA

As everyone knows, Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary election in a "stunning" defeat to an economics professor named David Brat.

Everyone has a theory on what went wrong with the campaign.

I said earlier this week, I’m not very interested in the immediate assessments of the race, and I think most coming out this week are premature, but if I’m going to read them, the theories I’m most interested in are from the political analysts and reporters in Cantor’s district—they are the few that have actually been following the race before Tuesday evening.

The Richmond Times Dispatch notes:

[Cantor’s loss] was presaged by two little-noticed internal GOP battles.

In March—in Cantor’s home county of Henrico—tea partyers and libertarians, disdainful of the congressman’s more traditional brand of Republicanism, blocked his forces from using a practice known as "slating" to take control of the county delegation to the party’s 7th District convention.

Then, in May, at the district convention a short distance from the outer Richmond subdivision where Cantor lives, the same coalition of grass-roots insurrectionists voted out Cantor’s handpicked district chairman, Linwood Cobb, and replaced him with Fred Gruber, a tea party activist from rural Louisa County.

The defeat of the second-most powerful member of the House is a signal that Virginia, despite its increasingly purple hue, is a battleground on which Republican newcomers—furious over runaway federal spending, health care reform and the nation’s porous borders—remain ascendant.

That is interesting and does give us some insight into what happened—his loss will be more complicated than "his constituents were tired of him" and the obvious question of why were they tired of him still needs to be answered, but right now that’s kind of the most we know about the race—and these are two examples that show and suggest that disdain was breeding.