Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-Ky.) has reignited criticism by once again refusing to say whether she voted for President Obama in 2012, but the obvious answer is yes, and we've got the video to prove it. Grimes set the political media on fire last week when she refused to say whether she had voted for President Obama in 2008 or 2012, even drawing a fatal rebuke from Meet The Press moderator Chuck Todd:
Thanks to that Morning Joe clip, Todd is now the star of a Mitch McConnell ad, which can't sit too well with Todd.
Despite Chuck's insistence that Grimes had "disqualified herself," the candidate had two fairly strong rationales for refusing to answer. The strongest, by far, was Grimes' insistence that Barack Obama is "not on the ballot," a point she probably should have stuck with. Obama supporters are rightly offended by the Democratic cold shoulder their president is getting from Democrats, but in a 90% white state where Obama only received 58% of the votes in an uncontested Democratic primary, the choice is step away from Obama, or step off. Grimes may need to do a dance for Kentucky voters, but as a Senator, she'll be a vote in favor of important issues that other Democrats avoid, like voting rights.
Grimes also cited the "sanctity of the ballot box," which actually is a real thing. Just ask Chuck Todd, who would sooner give up sunscreen than reveal who he voted for in any election. Not everyone is like that. There are many reporters who've told me how they cast their votes, but Chuck ain't one of them. We all have friends and family members who hold that information close, even if the answer is obvious.
At last night's debate, Grimes elected to go with the latter, weaker rationale when asked again:
"I'm not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or other side or members of the media. I'll protect that right for every Kentuckian."
That answer might appeal to Kentuckians who really don't want to get into fights at Thanksgiving dinner, but no one else. Grimes is now being compared with Peter, the biblical disciple who denied Christ three times, but to be fair, Jesus never managed to pass universal health care. On the other hand, Peter wasn't facing a 30-year incumbent
Grimes' refusal to answer has become a major distraction, even though the answer to the question is not only painfully obvious, but verifiable by video evidence. Here is Alison Lundergan Grimes voting for Barack Obama in 2012:
As you can see, every Kentucky delegate voted for Barack Obama in that clip, including Alison Lundergan Grimes. Unfortunately, this issue has become such a distraction that people are missing out on the fact that Grimes cleaned McConnell's clock in the debate, hammering him on his 30-year entrenchment in D.C., as she did in this particularly strong moment:
Part of the reason it has become such a distraction is that liberals have allowed it to, going along with the Beltway narrative that even as a substantive nothing, Grimes' refusal to answer is politically deadly. On MSNBC last night, Grimes surrogate Jess McIntosh of Emily's List made that argument look as silly as it is. As Chris Hayes tries to compliment her for answering more "gracefully" than Grimes, McIntosh sets him straight:
Hayes: "What you just did there was a graceful pivot to talking points. I think it's the graceles, plodding pivot to talking points that's drawn so much criticism."
McIntosh: "We are not arguing whether or not a pivot was graceful enough. There are issues that actually matter to Kentucky families that she is willing to talk about, and he is dodging all over the place, and that is why she has kept him as close as she has in the polls. That's what voters care about."
If she knows what's good for her, Alison Lundergan Grimes should study that clip, but so should media types like Chris Hayes and Chuck Todd (both of whom I like and respect), who too often let garbage like this sidetrack our political coverage. Hopefully, this issue is now settled.