Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

May 31, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: McConnell, Paul living life in middle


CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT Kentucky’s two Republican U.S. senators find themselves caught in the middle of opposing forces these days.

Mitch McConnell, who faces re-election next year, and Rand Paul, who is interested in running for president are trying to mollify multiple audiences, attempting to keep happy those on their right who can torpedo their plans while at the same time trying not to alienate the larger electorate they need to achieve their ultimate goals.

Last week Paul said he may offer an amendment to the immigration bill which would increase emphasis on border security and require an annual evaluation of how effectively the country is policing its borders before proceeding another year with immigration reform.

I suspect it’s not so much about immigration reform as it is satisfying his tea party base.

He has publicly called for the Republican Party to reach out to minorities. Paul knows the Republican Party — and especially a Republican named Rand Paul — can’t win a national election without cutting into the Democratic advantage with Hispanics, African-Americans and women.

Paul probably also knows, though he’s unlikely to say so, that President Barack Obama has significantly increased border patrols and — primarily because of the depressed economy — the number of undocumented aliens has actually decreased.

But he’s getting a lot of blowback from the tea party on his right, many of whom oppose immigration reform. Reaching out to minority groups on immigration risks the fervor and perhaps the support of many in the tea party.

Passing immigration reform will be tough enough and a Paul amendment along the lines he described last week isn’t likely to succeed. But it might give him cover with his tea party supporters and allow him to take a pass on the ultimate bill while still claiming a more moderate position on immigration with non-tea party voters.

While speaking to a Bullitt County Chamber of Commerce group Tuesday, McConnell also offered some carefully calibrated messages. McConnell of course blasted President Barack Obama, hitting the president on the controversy at the IRS and describing what he called a “culture of intimidation.” He called the Affordable Care Act “the single worst idea of our time,” and the man who in 2008 campaigned on his ability to bring federal dollars to Kentucky decried federal spending.

But McConnell still wants voters in 2014 to remember that as Minority Leader he occupies a powerful position which can benefit Kentucky. He’s been at the center of high profile compromises and proudly proclaims it. So how does he reconcile opposition to all things Obama with his role in major deals on taxes, the fiscal cliff and the national debt limit?

“So yeah, I made a deal with the administration that I thought was based on Republican values,” is how McConnell put it. He said he’s willing to “do business with (Obama) if it makes sense for the country.”

He may also have seen a poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning pollster, which showed half of the Kentucky respondents think McConnell “is part of the problem in Washington, D.C., and has forgotten about the people of Kentucky.”

McConnell also openly acknowledged another inconvenient problem for Republicans who say entitlements must be cut. He called Social Security and Medicare “very, very popular programs which you all like.”

For McConnell, the task is fending off a primary challenge from the right while not alienating those in the middle whose support he’ll need in a general election. For Paul, the reverse is his problem.

Perhaps both should remember the old Chinese proverb and curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

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.

Text Only
Local News
  • RONNIE ELLIS: Truth and politics don’t always mix

    On this, the most political weekend of the year in Kentucky, the weekend of the wonderfully unique Fancy Farm Picnic, it’s hard to write a column on politics.

    August 1, 2014

  • In Kentucky, execution debate finds new footing

    With a spate of botched executions across the country this year looming over their discussion, Kentucky lawmakers are revisiting some fundamental questions about the death penalty, including whether the state should keep it on the books.

    August 1, 2014

  • Families invited for Fun in the Park

     Free cotton candy, hot dogs and entertainment for an entire day is what Bridges Christian Church in Russell is offering local families during Fun in the Park this weekend.

    August 1, 2014

  • AEP reports stolen copper, fence damage

     All that glitters is not gold — sometimes, it's also copper.

    August 1, 2014

  • Probe of Fairview begins

    Four investigators from the state Office of Education Accountability spent much of Thursday interviewing school officials in a probe of alleged school law violations in the Fairview Independent School District.

    July 31, 2014

  • Grant helps Elliott County High School with $1.7 million geothermal renovation

    Elliott County School District Superintendent Dr. Carl Potter II remembers the night a few years ago when the lights went out in the middle of an Elliott County boys basketball game and interrupted it for some 20 minutes while the lights powered up.

    July 31, 2014

  • Heroin overdose deaths continue to rise

    The Kentucky state legislature passed a sweeping overhaul to its prescription drug law in the summer of 2012 after a flood of overdose deaths, making it significantly harder for people to access dangerous addictive drugs from doctors.

    July 31, 2014

  • Morehead man faces drug charges

    A Morehead man is facing multiple drug charges after taking possession of a suspicious package mailed to his home on Dillon Lane, according to the Kentucky State Police.

    July 31, 2014

  • Highlands’ Artists Market to begin today

    Up-and-coming artists are being offered a rare chance to show and sell their work during the First Friday art walk.

    July 31, 2014

  • Dogonline.jpg 'Educate and entertain'

    A local theater group is shooting for changing the area’s theater scene.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo