It’s hard to think of a midterm fumble more perplexing than Alison Lundergan Grimes’ refusal to answer a simple question about whether or not she voted for Barack Obama. After spending 40 unfortunate seconds refusing to betray her political allegiances to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Grimes evidently huddled with her advisers and decided it was wise to continue this chicanery in the debate this week. When she was once again asked again about her vote, the fading candidate delivered a response full of sanctimonious nonsense, rambling on about how her non-answer was actually a noble defense of constitutional rights, the right to a secret ballot and, of course, the military.
Grimes is certainly correct that she has a right to keep her vote private, and no one is suggesting that she be hauled down to jail for refusing to answer the question. However, it seems reasonable to presume that the Democratic candidate for a Senate seat should be comfortable disclosing whether or not she supported the current leader of her party. People casting their votes in a few weeks are interested in what Grimes’ believes, and part of that process is finding out what candidates she has supported. Few political leaders in American history have been shy about declaring their support for national tickets, so it’s hard to see how freedom would perish if the Secretary of State of Kentucky did so.
Compounding the ridiculousness of Grimes’ non-answer was her declaration of support for Hilary Clinton’s candidacy. It seems odd that someone so committed to concealing her political leanings would repeatedly discuss her support for one candidate while claiming it was her sacred duty not to discuss her support for another. However, when one considers the relative popularity Clinton and Obama in the state (Clinton defeated Obama by 35 points in Kentucky’s 2008 Democratic primary), it’s hard not to see the political reasons for her evasiveness.
Unfortunately for Grimes, this haphazard attempt to sidestep a difficult question is unlikely to benefit her, and may well eliminate her as a serious contender. Most voters probably assumed she voted for Obama, and few will reward her for simply refusing to admit it. McConnell’s own unpopularity may allow her to maintain her status as a nominal candidate, but Republicans who have long worried about this race likely breathed a sigh of relief after this unforced error.