Mitch McConnell Digs Himself Deeper and Deeper Over Obamacare

| Wed May 28, 2014 3:51 PM EDT

I don't usually spend too much time on local horse race stuff, but Kentucky is a little different. After all, Mitch McConnell is the minority leader in the Senate, and his Democratic challenger this year, Alison Lundergan Grimes, is running a surprisingly strong campaign. So perhaps Kentucky deserves some extra special attention. Surprisingly, it turns out that Obamacare, of all things, is causing McConnell some serious heartburn.

You see, unluckily for McConnell, Kentucky has possibly the best, most popular Obamacare exchange in the country—though nobody calls it an Obamacare exchange, of course, since Obamacare is the work of Satan. It's called Kynect. Everybody loves Kynect. So when McConnell was asked recently if he favored getting rid of Kynect, he had a problem. It's Obamacare, and he's on record favoring the root-and-branch repeal of Obamacare. But Kynect is popular. Nobody wants to see a root-and-branch repeal of Kynect. What to do?

So far, McConnell has taken a creative approach to this dilemma: He basically denies that Kynect has anything to do with Obamacare. McConnell remains in favor of total repeal of Obamacare, but says this wouldn't cause any problems with Kynect. It would just keep motoring along without missing a beat.

Now, this is a little peculiar. Politicians tell whoppers all the time, but usually they do it cleverly enough that they can somehow defend themselves. This, on the other hand, is just a flat-out fantasy. Without Obamacare, there's no exchange; there's no federal funding; there are no subsidies; there's no community rating; and there's no mandatory coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. Kynect is dead, and everyone knows it. It's hard to imagine even Fox News somehow twisting this to claim that McConnell is staking out a defensible position.

So far, Grimes has been a little tentative about attacking McConnell over this. After all, she has exactly the mirror-image problem: She wants to express her undying support for Kynect but without ever mentioning the dreaded word "Obamacare." Greg Sargent says he feels her pain, but nonetheless thinks this is a good opportunity to tighten the screws on McConnell further:

As Joe Sonka points out in a good piece, McConnell is betting that press coverage won’t clearly explain to voters just how absurd his position really is. But perhaps now that Grimes is engaging on the issue — to some degree, at least — that could serve as a hook for top shelf reporter and commentator types to take a peek at what’s really going on here.

It should be self evidently newsworthy that the leader of Senate Republicans, who have based their entire 2014 strategy on the idea that Obamacare is a long term political disaster and massive repudiation of liberal governance, refuses to take a clear position of his own on the law’s future in the state he would represent, and on whether hundreds of thousands of his own constituents should continue to enjoy its benefits.

Well, we'll see. McConnell is a crafty old survivor, and the odds remain pretty strongly in his favor even if he isn't making any sense about Kynect. Still, stuff like this makes me wonder if Grimes has a better chance of beating him than I would have thought. There's some real opportunity here if she can figure out how best to keep McConnell twisted into knots over this.

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