Democrats go all in to unseat McConnell, as polls give GOP leader edge

Even as most polls show Mitch McConnell holding the lead against challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, the prospect of knocking off the Senate's top Republican is proving too much for Democrats to resist.

Senate Democrats' campaign arm, in the closing month of the Kentucky race, is making a major bet on the contest. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) recently threw $1.4 million behind their candidate -- this, on top of the half-million reportedly already spent on the race.

The party clearly is hoping for a game change. The two candidates will meet for their only debate on Monday night. But outside of that, the race largely will play out on the airwaves across Kentucky.

The $1.4 million from the DSCC funded an ad buy painting McConnell as a Washington insider who is abandoning Kentucky.

"Sure seems Mitch has Washington working for him, and not us," the narrator in one ad says.

Still, as some other Democratic candidates falter -- and control of the Senate itself hangs in the balance -- the $2 million investment on this one race raises the question of whether Democrats are being tantalized by the possibility of running Mitch out of town.

"[The] DSCC has the resources to play in Kentucky," Kyle Kondik, with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told "But if they end up having a bad night and McConnell wins, there may be some Monday morning quarterbacking on whether that money was well spent."

Democrats show no qualms over being all in on Kentucky. DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky told that defeating McConnell is "absolutely" one of the party's main priorities in November.

"Kentucky is a very close race and middle-class families there deserve a senator who will fight for them instead of Mitch McConnell, the walking talking embodiment of everything people dislike about Washington," he said in an email.

The race is close, but a Real Clear Politics average of recent polling has McConnell up by 3 points. And although a Bluegrass Poll last week had Grimes edging McConnell by 2 points, a Fox News poll the same week showed McConnell leading 45-41 percent.

Political forecasters still think McConnell has a good shot at keeping his seat. The Rothenberg Political Report lists the race as "lean Republican," which is in line with most other predictions from similar outfits.

Meanwhile, as the DSCC invests in Grimes, Democratic incumbents are fighting tooth and nail to keeps their jobs across the country.

Take Arkansas. Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is trailing Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton by more than 4 points, according to the RCP average of polls. The DSCC had spent $1.6 million there as of Oct. 6, according to an analysis of TV ad spending by the Center for Public Integrity.

Or Colorado, where Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is in a dead heat with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner. The DSCC had spent $2 million there as of Oct. 6, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Kondik said he does not think vulnerable Democratic candidates are hurting for cash, or have been abandoned by the national party.

But he said it is clear Democrats would love to oust McConnell, noting the campaign has a "certain level of PR value."

"[There is] really kind of an inherent PR value in going against the leader rather than going after an average senator," he said.

Kondik said another factor is that "pretty clearly Democrats don't like Mitch McConnell," including, he said, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"It's going to be pretty hard for Democrats to win [Kentucky] but that said, I understand why they are doing it," he said.

Barasky said the notion that the DSCC is spending money in Kentucky that could be better spent helping other Democrats is "ridiculous."

"We have outraised the NRSC by $30 million and can afford to play in races all across the map," Barasky said.

The McConnell campaign told that the national party's spending on the race proves Grimes will only further President Obama's agenda if elected.

"Alison Grimes is now relying on a group funded almost exclusively by Obama enthusiasts who support an agenda that could not be more hostile to our way of life in Kentucky," spokeswoman Allison Moore told