Immigration took the forefront in the Kentucky Senate race as a conservative group that supports Mitch McConnell on Tuesday launched an ad charging Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes with backing Pres. Barack Obama's "amnesty plan" for undocumented immigrants.
The ad, paid for by the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition which is buying just under a million dollars of TV time, links Grimes with the president over their shared support for a “pathway to citizenship” for people in the U.S. illegally, a move that many conservative Republicans say is the same thing as amnesty.
The 30-second television ad alleges that Obama and Grimes’ plan would mean “citizenship for millions who broke the law.”
“Illegal immigrants would become eligible for taxpayer-funded benefits: food stamps, unemployment, even Medicare,” a narrator says in the TV ad, which was posted by the website Politico. “Obama and Grimes: two liberals for amnesty, too liberal for us.”
McConnell and Grimes, the current Secretary of State of Kentucky, have not to this point in the election cycle made immigration a major issue, instead focusing more on the Affordable Care Act and the future of coal mining in Kentucky – but Grimes was backed into a corner on the topic during a Kentucky Farm Bureau forum last month.
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Grimes argued that she would have supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate, despite the fact that McConnell instead called for breaking the immigration issue up into a series of piecemeal bills.
“Had Mitch not stood in the way of comprehensive immigration reform … we might not see the crisis we see at the border today,” Grimes said, according to Politico. “He said ‘no’ to making sure we could have an earned pathway to citizenship — which is what I believe in.”
While the immigration bill passed the Senate, it stalled in the House, and Obama said recently that he was putting off any action in regard to immigration until after the midterm elections so as not to politicize the issue.
Although the president and many Democrats in Congress have blamed Republicans – particularly those in the House of Representatives – for the failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, critics say that the president and Democrats are also at fault.
Despite Grimes' shared views with Obama on immigration, she has distanced herself from him sharply on other issues, including gun rights and clean energy.
A recent television ad shows how far she is willing to move away from the beleaguered president. It shows her sporting a shotgun and talking up the differences between her and the administration.
“Mitch McConnell wants you to think I’m Barack Obama,” Grimes says in the ad. “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.”
The Grimes campaign has also responded to the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition attack ad by pointing out Sen. McConnell's own spotty record on the issue.
“Mitch McConnell voted against immigration reform that would have helped Kentucky farmers and secured our border by putting thousands more agents on the border,” noted Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton, according to Politico. “Alison opposes President Obama in any attempt to alter our immigration system by executive order and believes Congress needs to do its job and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.