How Alison Grimes Disqualified Herself

By Richard Nelson

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October 10, 2014

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Most civically engaged folks would probably agree on two things. One, honesty is an important character trait. Two, many politicians don't have it.

Rarely, though, does a candidate make her lack of transparency as transparent as Alison Grimes has done. The Courier-Journal recently interviewed Grimes, an interview which was live-streamed online. At one point in the interview, Grimes refuses three times to answer a VERY basic question:

During an interview with an editorial board, Kentucky Democratic Sen. Alison Lundergan Grimes was asked repeatedly whether or not she voted for Barack Obama for president. She proceeded to squirm and furiously rub her thumbs together as she struggled to avoid answering the question.

Video of Grimes's dodging went live on YouTube this morning but apparently has been taken down due to a copyright claim.

Grimes has tried admirably hard to shed her (deserved) reputation as an Obama candidate. Her campaign has aired recent ads distancing herself from the President on coal, immigration, and guns. Yet this embarrassing non-answer is a significant moment of clarity for the Grimes campaign. Admitting that she voted for the President would not be a momentous confession; no one seriously doubts it. So why did she avoid it so? One answer could be that she didn't want to put herself in a situation where she might praise or criticize the President too strongly. The former would hurt her election chances in Kentucky, the latter would hurt them within her party.

Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press, had strong words about Grimes's evasion: “

Kentuckians expect her to cast a tough vote on anything?” Todd asked, barely concealing his disdain. “Is she ever going to answer a tough question on anything? You want to be a U.S. senator?” “If you can’t say, if you can’t find a way to stand behind your party’s president — you can disagree with him — but you can’t answer that basic question?” he added incredulously. “I think she disqualified herself. I really do.”

Lack of transparency as a candidate isn't going to suddenly go away as a Senator. If Grimes has problems owning up to her own ideological orientation–and presidential voting is truly the most elemental form there is–Kentuckians shouldn't expect her to own up to much else.

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center