Re-election Challenge Could Complicate McConnell’s Balancing Act

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The 2014 re-election campaign of Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will likely have significant impacts on the development of several pieces of legislation in the Senate. While McConnell has often styled himself as a compromiser, the threat of a primary challenge in his very conservative home state could effect his stances on such issues as immigration reform or deficit reduction.

“It makes it a little harder,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee. Not only could Mr. McConnell get pushed to the right if a challenger emerged during primary season, but he also faces a grueling fund-raising gantlet to collect the $20 million or more his campaign is seeking to protect him.

However, Senator McConnell has already raised in excess of $26 million since his last election, overwhelmingly from out of state donors and the financial industry. Also, McConnell has adopted an agressive stance towards potential challengers given his lagging poll numbers in Kentucky. Sen. McConnell must walk a fine line between obstructionism that may be popular at home, and compromise with the administration that moves legislation forward. While many remain optimistic for bi-partisan legislation on immigration reform, some worry that McConnell's re-election fears could scupper any dealmaking.

“There won’t be a deal, in large part because he’s worried about himself,” said J. B. Poersch, a veteran strategist for Senate Democrats. “The politics will demand that he be an obstructionist.”