And so it begins. Fully twenty months before Kentuckians head to the polls to either re-elect Mitch McConnell or send some other pol to Washington, it’s clear that the Senate Minority Leader isn’t taking any chances. To wit, on Thursday Team McConnell will reportedly launch their first television campaign ad of the 2014 election season, according to Politico:
Mitch McConnell plans to begin running television commercials in Kentucky on Thursday, 20 months before the election.
The Senate Minority Leader, who polls suggest is perhaps the most vulnerable Republican incumbent up in 2014, is targeting women older than 25 in Louisville and Lexington with a six-figure buy.
A source that tracks media buys told POLITICO that McConnell will be up for one week.
The McConnell campaign confirmed the buy, saying they will run a positive spot and noting that there is an accompanying radio component.
It is extraordinarily rare for an incumbent to run advertisements so early, long before most voters have tuned in.
It was significant when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went on the air in Nevada in the fall of 2009, nearly half a year closer to the election than this. His advisers worried that he was seen as overly partisan and out of touch — perceptions that polling suggest could dog McConnell — so they ran spots highlighting his modest roots, along with illustrations of how he used his power to help his state.
McConnell began preparing early for a tough fight next year. He had $7.4 million in cash on hand at the end of January, as well as a stable of experienced campaign hands on board.
Democrats identify the GOP leader as a top target. Actress and activist Ashley Judd reportedly plans to announce sometime this spring that she will run, but for now McConnell has no declared opponent.
Over the weekend I noted that it seemed awfully likely that Ashley Judd will try to unseat Senator McConnell in 2014. Yes, the Hollywood actress has her work cut out for her -- that is, if she does indeed decide to run -- but McConnell isn’t necessarily a shoe-in for re-election either. On the other hand, McConnell has a distinct advantage, despite his sagging popularity.
Enter Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
Although Senator McConnell didn’t endorse now-Senator Paul during his 2010 Republican primary run-off (he went with the establishment candidate, natch), he’s made a concerted effort to build a political alliance with him. As NRO's Andrew Stiles points out, McConnell’s hired the junior Senator’s old campaign manager to guide his promising bid for re-election, endorsed a few of his legislative ideas, and even participated in (after giving him explicit approval beforehand) his epic, 13-hour-long filibuster last week. Needless to say, I suspect McConnell will use Paul’s growing influence and newfound popularity to his own advantage; his endorsement and support certainly can’t hurt.
That being said, Kentucky is a state that leans unquestionably to the right. After all, they elected Rand Paul, a self-described Tea Partier with pronounced libertarian-leanings, to the U.S. Senate by a double-digit margin. But this begs another question: Do Democrats really believe a Hollywood liberal has a fleeting chance against the Senate Minority Leader? Surely there’s something almost farcical about a constitutional conservative and a liberal activist from Hollywood serving side by side as colleagues from Kentucky in the upper chamber, right?
Still, Allahpundit noted recently that Judd is basically a “low risk high reward” candidate -- that is to say, the chances of Senator McConnell actually losing to anyone, let alone a political novice, are so minuscule and unlikely that Democrats don’t really have anything to lose by backing her. And who knows? Nothing is certain in politics -- hence why I think Team McConnell is being extra cautious, and starting the political fireworks months earlier than probably necessary.