WASHINGTON -- Few things seem to excite AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka quite like the prospect of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) losing his long-held Senate seat next month. Though most polls still predict McConnell will adequately fend off Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, the labor leader said that stumping throughout the Bluegrass State has convinced him Grimes will come out on top.
"I've been on the ground. I've been in Owensboro. I've been in Louisville. I've been in Paducah. I've been in the eastern part of the state. And I know what's happening," Trumka told a roundtable of reporters on Tuesday. "Mitch McConnell is against everything. He's running against Barack Obama, but Barack Obama isn't on the ballot. Alison Lundergan Grimes is, and she is going to beat him in the election."
Ousting the Senate's top Republican has been a high priority for the labor federation, enough so to justify Trumka's recent tour to mobilize union leaders and members around Kentucky to campaign for Grimes ahead of the Nov. 4 election. HuffPost Pollster currently has McConnell ahead by four points, with a 62 percent chance that the senator will hold onto his seat, although a recent poll gave Grimes a two-point advantage.
Having talked with voters on the ground, Trumka predicted McConnell would lose because he hasn't made an adequate case for himself and his record, instead campaigning largely against the president, who's deeply unpopular in Kentucky.
"Have you seen Mitch McConnell's ads?" Trumka asked. "They're all negative, about why they shouldn't vote for [Grimes]. Mitch McConnell doesn't say why you ought to vote for him, because his record is dismal. It doesn't support Kentuckians. It supports rich corporations at the expense of the Kentuckian, and that's why he wants to run against Obama. But he's not being successful.
"I'm telling you," Trumka added. "It's run its course."
A McConnell campaign spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trumka has been barnstorming on behalf of Democrats not just in Kentucky but also around the country over the past month. He's spent most of that time in the labor federation's higher-priority states: Alaska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Maine; he'll soon head to Colorado, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
He said he's run into a lot of people who asked him why they should bother voting in the mid-terms. His response, he said, was that the economy "is not like the weather."
"The economy is rules," Trumka said. "What they can control is who sets the rules."
"Workers are hit harder than a lot of people think," he went on. "You just look at wages being flat, that's one thing. But [there's] stuff that doesn't show up in the records: losing your pension or the lessening of your pension, paying more for your health care. All of those things are putting a real squeeze on workers and aren't documented."
Trumka said the federation wouldn't disclose how much money it plans on spending this cycle, although it reliably runs a major ground game for Democrats during mid-terms. In terms of phone banking, knocking on doors and preparing get-out-the-vote operations, Trumka said the federation is further ahead relative to Election Day than it was in 2010.
The federation's super PAC, Workers' Voice, has spent about $4.7 million so far this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
One of the challenges for the AFL-CIO and the candidates it is championing, Trumka said, has been a growing concern among voters about issues not necessarily tied to the economy -- in particular, turmoil in the Middle East and the Ebola scare. Of course, organized labor would rather voters were thinking about stagnating wages and the long, tepid economic recovery.
"We have our work cut out for us," Trumka said. "I believe right now that our people are starting to get excited and pick up steam. I would say it took more effort this time to break through the external stuff, but I think we've gotten there."