Commonwealth Journal

Columns

May 22, 2014

Grimes needs to take a firm stand on Obama

Somerset — Alison Lundergan Grimes is in a really tough spot. First of all, she’s squaring off against a GOP juggernaut in longtime U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell this fall. And, secondly, she finds herself linked to the most unpopular president ever in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Instead of taking a firm stand on her feelings on President Obama and his controversial health care plan, Grimes is not only sitting on the fence — she’s handcuffed to it. "No matter who the president is, I won't answer to them. I'll only answer to you." That’s what Grimes promises in her TV ads. It’s a nice sentiment — but do we really buy it? Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a pro-McConnell group, launched a two-week air assault that says Grimes is backed by Obama's allies from Hollywood and elsewhere. "Michelle Obama let the truth slip out at a new York City fundraiser, calling Grimes' election critical to President Obama's liberal agenda that's hurting Kentucky," the commercial says. Grimes certainly didn’t help distance herself from Obama when she refused to give reporters a straight answer about her feelings on Obamacare. Asked two times whether she'd have voted for the 2010 healthcare overhaul, the Kentucky Democrat told The Associated Press: "I, when we are in the United States Senate, will work to fix the Affordable Care Act." Grimes added: "I believe the politically motivated response you continue to see from Mitch McConnell in terms of repeal, root and branch, is not in reality or keeping ... with what the facts are here in Kentucky." The law Republicans call "Obamacare" presents a delicate issue for Grimes, who won the Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday. Kynect, Kentucky's state-run health insurance exchange made possible by the law, is wildly popular. More than 400,000 people have either signed up for an expanded Medicaid program or purchased private insurance plans with the help of government subsidies. But Obamacare remains unpopular in the state, mostly because President Barack Obama himself is unpopular here. "I am not and will not be for taking away insurance that 400,000 Kentuckians just recently got access to," she said. In his victory speech after Tuesday's GOP primary, McConnell said a vote for Grimes would be "a vote for Obamacare and a president who sold it to us on a mountain of lies." The wily McConnell— who has portrayed Grimes as “Obama’s cheerleader” — will continue beating that drum until votes are cast in November. Grimes might have her guard up. But it’s pretty clear she’s going to have to throw some punches to let Kentuckians know whether she stands with Obama or not. This will be a huge factor in whether or not she can displace one of the most powerful men in Washington. JEFF NEAL is the news editor at the Commonwealth Journal. You can reach him at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com

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