Immigration hits Kentucky race

Immigration is about to enter the Kentucky Senate race in a very big way.

The main pro-Mitch McConnell outside group will spend just under $1 million over the next week, starting Tuesday, on a commercial that links Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes with President Barack Obama over their shared support for “a pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, which some conservatives say is tantamount to amnesty.

It comes after at least four Republican Senate candidates, as well as the National Republican Senatorial Committee, have run ads accusing Democrats of being soft on the immigration issue.

(Also on POLITICO: Grimes goes shooting in new ad)

McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has yet to hammer Grimes on this issue in his paid advertising, but their stances on the topic were among their clearest differences during a Kentucky Farm Bureau forum last month.

The ad from the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, says 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 female narrator says in the 30-second spot, shared first with POLITICO. “Obama and Grimes: two liberals for amnesty, too liberal for us.”

The commercial includes vintage black-and-white video footage of people hopping a border fence to enter America illegally.

(Also on POLITICO: Would a GOP Senate be king of the world?)

The president is shown in a clip from the White House briefing room saying, “We want to make sure that we’ve got a pathway to citizenship.”

The ad then shows Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, telling a local TV station, “We need an immigration bill … giving a pathway to citizenship for so many millions.”

Grimes said at the Farm Bureau forum last month that she would have backed the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate. McConnell advocated 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 on Aug. 20. “He said ‘no’ to making sure we could have an earned pathway to citizenship — which is what I believe in.”

(Also on POLITICO: Year of the ‘regular folk’)

McConnell said comprehensive approaches to big problems can go terribly awry, citing Obamacare.

“I think we need to bust it up,” he said.

On Monday, Grimes released an ad that underscores how far she’ll go to distance herself from the wildly unpopular Obama.

“Mitch McConnell wants you to think I’m Barack Obama,” the Democrat narrates as she’s shown firing a shotgun. “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.”

Republican Senate challengers in New Hampshire, Michigan, Arkansas and Louisiana also have been on the air with tough “amnesty”-themed spots.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s independent expenditure arm began running an ad against Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn over her support for the comprehensive immigration bill last week, forcing her to go up with a response ad over the weekend. It notes that Republican senators, including Arizona’s John McCain and Florida’s Marco Rubio, backed the same bill and that she publicly opposes the president taking executive action on immigration.

Kentucky Opportunity Coalition has already spent millions on ads. So far, its Grimes hits have focused on the coal issue and Obamacare. The immigration attack is a $980,000 buy for one week.

The Grimes campaign responded to the ad by attacking McConnell for not backing last year’s Senate bill.

“Mitch McConnell voted against immigration reform that would have helped Kentucky farmers and secured our border by putting thousands more agents on the border,” said Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton. “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.”

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Immigration hits Kentucky race
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