Dems devoutly wish McConnell wins primary
I don't think the Democrats are whistling past the graveyard either. They genuinely think that McConnell is vulnerable - especially when they have a young, centrist woman who has already won statewide to challenge him.
Kentucky's Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is expected to be extremely well funded and without much of a primary challenge. McConnell will have plenty of cash, but will have to spend heavily to beat his announced primary opponent, Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin.
Bevin's biggest obstacle will be to raise money for his campaign, as many business groups and political action committees will steer clear of the race for fear of offending McConnell, one of the nation's most powerful Republicans.
Democrats have subtly tried to influence other Republican primaries, such as last year's contest in Missouri. But strategists predict Democratic donors and groups will stay away from Bevin.
"It would be an absolute disaster for McConnell to lose in a primary instead of a general [election]. It would send the signal that McConnell is not conservative enough when the signal we need to send is that Kentucky voters don't like obstruction," said Adam Green, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which launched a new television ad in Kentucky this week hitting McConnell on Social Security.
Jimmy Cauley, a Kentucky-based Democratic strategist, said Alison Lundergan Grimes, the expected Democratic nominee, is better off facing McConnell.
"Democrats better pray that Bevin wounds him and doesn't beat him," he said.
"A wounded McConnell can be beat" in a state that otherwise often votes for Republican in congressional races, he added. "Democrats might not beat Bevin, I think they have a shot at McConnell".
Democrats point to internal polling from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that shows McConnell is the most vulnerable Republican incumbent.
The most recent DSCC polling shows 62 percent of Kentucky voters disapprove of McConnell's job performance while only 35 percent approve. That shows a drop compared to September of 2008, when McConnell's job approval was 51 percent, according to Democratic polling.
Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager, called the survey "laughable cooked polling."
"It's so ridiculous it should be dismissed out of hand," he said.
Benton's last famous words were that he has to "hold his nose" to work for McConnell, so his credibility is about zero when it comes to talking about the campaign.
McConnell may be unpopular but he will have upwards of $30 million to spend. Grimes almost certainly won't be able to match that unless it looks like the Dems are going to lose the Senate. At that point, a supreme effort by the national party to pour money and resources into Kentucky would give her a boost.
But Kentucky is still one of the most Republican states in the union. Both Bevin and Grimes have a long road ahead if they want to beat McConnell.