Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has labored to distance herself from President Obama in her run for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, refuses to say whether she voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012.
“I respect the sanctity of the ballot box, and I know that the members of this editorial board do as well,” Mrs. Grimes told the Louisville Courier-Journal at an editorial board interview Thursday.
Her dodging of the question drew harsh criticism form political pundits.
NBC News’ Chuck Todd said Friday that Mrs. Grimes had effectively “disqualified herself” from the race.
“Is she ever going to answer a tough question on anything? You want to be a U.S. senator?” Mr. Todd said Friday on the network’s “Morning Joe” show. “If you … can’t answer that basic question and you come across looking that ridiculous, I think she disqualified herself. I really do.”
Her opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, has slammed Ms. Grimes for being “President Obama’s candidate in Kentucky,” where the president and his policies are extremely unpopular.
In the editorial board interview, the newspaper repeatedly prodded Ms. Grimes to reveal her vote in 2008 and 2012.
“You know, this election — it isn’t about the president. It’s about … making sure we put Kentuckians back to work,” she said.
“Did you vote for him?” the interviewer pressed.
“I was actually in ‘08 a delegate for Hilary Clinton and I, I think that Kentuckians know I’m a Clinton Democrat through and through,” Ms. Grimes said. “I respect the sanctity of the ballot box, and I know that the members of this editorial board do as well.”
“So you’re not gonna answer,” said the interviewer, abandoning the question.
Mrs. Grimes said: “I don’t think that the president is on the ballot, as much as Mitch McConnell might want him to be. It’s my name, and it’s gonna be me who’s holding him accountable for the failed decisions and votes that he has made against the people of Kentucky.”
The Kentucky race remains close. Mr. McConnell holds a 3-point lead over Mrs. Grimes in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls.
The McConnell campaign pounced on Ms. Grimes for dodging the questions, sending out a blast email to supporters with a transcript and video of the interview.
The email included a photograph of Mrs. Grimes and her husband in evening dress at the the Kentucky Society’s Bluegrass Ball in January 2009 to celebrate Mr. Obama’s first inauguration.