Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

June 28, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: Grimes has difficult decision in front of her

FRANKFORT — Maybe the media and hopeful Democrats should back off a bit and show a little sympathy for Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Grimes continues to delay a public announcement about whether she’ll challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014. Democrats badly want to take McConnell down and see Grimes as the woman who can do it. Some are growing impatient.

Some media types (blush) have criticized Grimes for the delay, warning McConnell and his allies wouldn’t wait forever to begin preemptive attacks on the first term, 34-year-old secretary of state. Last week proved them right as McConnell’s campaign released a web ad making fun of Grimes’ delay in making a decision while an outside PAC began running an ad trying to link her with President Barack Obama and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Grimes’ fellow Democratic office holders continue to push her to run. But they aren’t doing it out of devotion to their party or because they have Grimes’ interests at heart. Some clearly want Grimes to run for the Senate to eliminate a potential — and formidable — primary opponent for governor or attorney general.

But they won’t have to face the brutal campaign McConnell will wage against any Democratic opponent or the knowledge that most of those who have challenged McConnell and lost then faded from the political scene.

Easy for them to say she should run. Harder for Grimes to do it.

The pressure on Grimes from national Democrats and their allies from outside Kentucky is perhaps greater even than the pressure from Kentucky Democrats.

One person close to Grimes says she routinely receives calls from major donors from across the country promising to raise money for the race. National Democrats are pushing hard for her to run, including Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a first-time office holder. When you pick up the phone and hear the voice of a major entertainment figure on the other end promising millions in fundraising, when nationally prominent Democratic Senators personally beg you to run and tell you that you can win, how easy is it to walk away?

Should Grimes run and win she’d be a national political rock star. She would move from being a rising star in the Kentucky Democratic Party to a rising star on the national stage.

It’s hard to overstate the hunger of Democrats to see Grimes challenge McConnell. A couple of weeks ago at an election law forum Grimes held in Richmond, the mood among Democrats in the room was palpable: run, Alison, run. Please!

The guess here is that Grimes hadn’t planned on any of this, that she was aiming toward a run for governor someday. She probably doesn’t want to endure what she’d have to face from McConnell, deal with the constant need to fundraise and subject her family to the scrutiny and the attacks.

There have been multiple hints over the past few weeks from some of her supporters that a Grimes announcement was imminent but then the presumed deadline passed without any announcement.

That may indicate she’d decided not to run and was prepared to say so only to get another of those calls from Washington or Los Angeles or New York telling her the party and the country need her to make the race.

Grimes can’t wait much longer. If she’s going to run, she needs to start fundraising and organizing. If she’s not going to run, her party needs to recruit an alternative, credible challenger.

But Democrats should understand just how much they are asking of Grimes.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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