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Phillip M. Bailey (KPR)

Kentucky Public Radio Correspondent

Philip Bailey is a reporter and political correspondent for Kentucky Public Radio based out of WFPL  in Louisville, Kentucky.

  • Former President Bill Clinton and other high-profiled Democrats endorsed U.S. Senate Candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes today, touting her efforts to…
  • Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is challenging leaders in eastern Kentucky to accept the decline of coal production and invest in a new economy to…
  • Yesterday, WFPL News reported that Progress Kentucky, a liberal Super PAC, was behind the secret recording of a recent campaign strategy session between…
  • Louisville businessman Matthew Bevin is interested in taking on Republican Mitch McConnell in a primary election, but no final decision has been made.
  • The Super PAC American Crossroads has released a stinging ad targeting actress-activist Ashley Judd, who is considering a bid against Senate Republican
  • The re-election campaign for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is dismissing a poll conducted by The Louisville Courier-Journal, which shows the
  • A conservative group is attacking Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell over the fiscal cliff deal in a series of online advertisements in Kentucky that questions his loyalty to the GOP. The ads were purchased by the Virginia-based group For America and began running Wednesday on the The Daily Caller, Drudge Report and Fox News websites, as well as on Facebook. It accuses McConnell of capitulating to President Obama and calls for conservatives to stand up to the party leader. Brent Bozell is founder and chairman of For America. He says McConnell was the architect of a bad deal and that is playing "President Obama’s bag man." "There comes a point where as a conservative you just say you’ve had it. This was a quintessential tax and spend piece of legislation," he says. "Conservatives have for decades labeled Democrats the party of tax and spend. How can you not label Republicans the same thing when they go along with it?" McConnell fashioned the agreement with Vice President Joe Biden, which permanently extended the Bush-era tax rates for individuals making less than $400,000 and was praised by many conservative thinkers. However, the deal delayed government spending cuts for another two months. Last week, several Kentucky tea party leaders voiced their displeasure with McConnell’s deal with the White House and argued it hurts his chances at re-election. On Sunday, McConnell made appearances on three different political talk shows to discuss the deal and make his pitch for the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations. The GOP leader pledged it would not include tax increases and that the revenue conversation was over. McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton told WFPL that the Senator's efforts helped avoid a tax increase on the vast majority of middle-class families, and he is leading the fight to rein in government spending. "Senator McConnell won a victory to cut taxes for over 99 percent of Americans, and will now help lead the fight to rein in spending and reform our broken entitlement system," says Benton. "Hopefully, all of our friends will get behind these efforts and stand up for our country." But Bozell says McConnell has lost sight of his principles and backbone, adding his campaign is echoing the president’s talking points when it used the fiscal cliff agreement in a fundraising e-mail. "That sounds just like the Obama administration," says Bozell. "These are the same people who kept talking about when they would capture the majority in 2012. And we were scoffed at and I can tell you it’s going to happen again. If they continue playing these games they will not succeed in 2014." McConnell has tried to mend fences with his right-wing flank, and his supporters argue the For America release is a tiny ad buy to gain media attention. But according to Bozell, the frustration with McConnell is growing and could impact his re-election chances. "I can’t speak for any other organization. What I can tell you is that I’ve spoken to the heads of many conservative organizations and there is outrage (at McConnell)," he says. UPDATE: Before launching an ad campaign against McConnell, the group ForAmerica gave the GOP leader high marks in it political ratings. On its "Freedom Meter," which measures a lawmaker based on their votes, McConnell was scored at 95 percent for 2011-12. McConnell's supporters point out that makes him among the groups highest rated Senators. "As expected, Tea Party groups across the country are trying to influence Sen. McConnell's re-election campaign," says Louisville Young Republicans President James Young. "As a Republican, I respect their efforts and welcome them to join Sen. McConnell in his bid to make Washington a more friendly environment for conservatives everywhere."
  • Kentucky Tea Party leaders are voicing frustration with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell over his role in forging a bill that averted the fiscal cliff, and are encouraging a primary challenge in his re-election bid. In the final days of negotiations, McConnell worked closely with Vice President Joe Biden to fashion an agreement that passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support. The Biden-McConnell bill extended the Bush-era tax cuts permanently for individuals making less than $400,000, but it delayed government spending cuts for another two months. Louisville Tea Party President Sarah Durand says rank and file members were already displeased with McConnell’s record on fiscal issues, and are furious over the latest development. "When he negotiates a bill that gets people like John Yarmuth to support it, but not people like Sen. Rand Paul and Congressman Thomas Massie, it kind of makes Republicans wonder whose side are you on? Right now the conservatives in Kentucky are talking about the fiscal problems that we have and the fact that Sen. McConnell’s not wiling to do anything to solve those is certainly going to be a problem for his re-election” she says. McConnell's supporters argue that the GOP leader salvaged a deal after Speaker John Boehner failed to do so. Others say that without McConnell, taxes would have gone up on every income earner in Kentucky, and that President Obama had to raise his initial threshold of $250,000 to $400,000. The Biden-McConnell deal also benefits businesses with specific breaks, and keeps increases to estate and capital gains taxes at a minimum. However, it adds $3.9 trillion to the country's deficit and will lead to $330 billion in increased spending over the next decade. "The deal certainly favors the Democrat Party, but Sen. McConnell did a fine job," says James Young, chairman of the Louisville Young Republicans. "There is a divide when it comes what was the best route for the fiscal cliff deal, but Sen. McConnell is the leader of the Republican Senate and he accomplished the best possible deal in the current tax climate." Several prominent conservatives—including anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist—also came out in support of the Biden-McConnell plan by pointing out that it avoided a tax hike for the vast majority of Americans. In many circles, it's considered that McConnell helped "limit the damage" from Democrats who had spent years decrying the Bush era tax cuts. From The National Review: Perhaps congressional Republicans, and especially Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, could have gotten a better deal. And it is perfectly reasonable for Republicans to vote against the bill as a way of registering their justified unhappiness with the direction of fiscal policy. A uniform Republican vote for the deal might have communicated the wrong message to the public. (SNIP) In our judgment, though, the deal was worth passing. It will result in less economic damage than either doing nothing (and thus letting all the tax cuts expire) or adopting Obama’s initial position would have. It will also give the federal government less revenue to spend than either of those alternatives. Conservatives who judge these matters differently should make their case without suggesting, falsely, that taxes would have stayed down if only McConnell, Boehner, et al. had not “caved.” "At the end of the day the impact on Kentuckians is that about 99 percent of income earners were spared from an automatic federal tax increase," says Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson. "There are differing opinions, but I think for Sen. McConnell's part what he did was very important. The next step is to make sure federal spending is in check. And all we can do is hope that President Obama will keep his word." The growing frustration with McConnell among tea party leaders may have tipped over, however. David Adams is chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He says McConnell should be concerned with a primary challenge as a result. "Unfortunately Sen. McConnell is pushing everybody who would work against him to work against him all the harder. And I regret that," says Adams, who told WFPL he's spoken with potential GOP challengers who could take on McConnell in 2014. "I wish we were talking in terms of fighting the Democrats and the big spending people on terms where we can win." For the past few years McConnell has courted tea party activists around the state and appeared at a rally in Frankfort alongside Sen. Paul last year. Despite their vocal criticism, McConnell says the movement has been good for the GOP because of the enthusiasm is has engendered. The fiscal cliff deal, however, has been hard for McConnell to navigate given that Paul and newly elected Rep. Thom Massie—who are tea party favorites—were vocal opponents who voted against the deal with the White House. McConnell's office declined to comment for this story, but did release a statement from the Senator highlighting the need to focus on the upcoming debt ceiling debate. "Now that the House and Senate have acted in a bipartisan way to prevent tax increases on 99 percent of the American people, Democrats now have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to join Republicans in a serious effort to reduce Washington’s out-of-control spending," McConnell said in a statement. "That’s a debate the American people want. It’s the debate we’ll have next. And it’s a debate Republicans are ready for." But for Kentucky tea party activists, the fiscal cliff was a missed opportunity and many are doubtful that McConnell can get an effective deal during debt ceiling talks. "If this is the best deal he could get then that's sort of sad," says Northern Kentucky Tea Party President Larry Robinson. "We want to work with Mitch and appreciate him reaching out. But unless he has something up his sleeve that can seriously stop the spending then he's sending the wrong signal to the conservative Tea Party people. And I would like to see other people put their names in the hat and see who is out there who is available to take on this job."
  • The campaign to re-elect Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell leaked an internal poll showing him with a far better approval rating than the Public Policy Polling survey released earlier this month. Earlier this month, PPP showed Kentucky's senior Senator is the most unpopular Senator in the country with a dismal 37 percent approval rating and a 55 percent disapproval. But McConnell's re-election campaign has him at 51 percent approval and only 40 percent disapproving. What's interesting is that both the PPP and McConnell numbers show the GOP leader ahead of Democratic activist and actress Ashley Judd—the most popular choice for Kentucky Democrats—by just a four-point margin. From The Washington Post: The poll also tested a number of GOP lines of attack on Judd, including the fact that she has homes in Scotland and Tennessee but not her native Kentucky, her support for Obamacare and abortion rights and her anti-coal comments. All, as one might expect, poll poorly in conservative Kentucky and move voters into McConnell’s camp. Observers argue that McConnell's camp is trying to further trash the PPP findings, which campaign manager Jesse Benton blasted as Democratic-leaning in a statement last week. But McConnell supporters say this shows the best choice for Democrats is far outside the mainstream of Kentucky voters and that her chances plummet when the Hollywood star's liberal views are scrutinized.
  • Owensboro Democrat Ed Marksberry is running in the 2014 Kentucky race for U.S. Senate. Marksberry is a building contractor and former congressional candidate, who ran unsuccessfully against Republican Congressman Brett Guthrie two years ago. He lost that race by 35 points. On his campaign website, Marksberry says he shares the experience of middle-class Kentuckians and knows first-hand their struggles in this difficult economy. "I feel my background provides me the independence I believe voters are looking for from their elected officials," he says. "I’m not beholden to corporate or Wall Street money, therefore I can focus on what that Kentucky families need from our government." Marksberry made the announcement Wednesday in Louisville. He is the first Democrat to jump in the race against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, as speculation grows on the list of potential challengers, including Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and actress Ashley Judd.