I know, on paper this campaign race looks like it belongs firmly in the yeah, right. When pigs fly column. But when you scratch below the surface a little, and look at the personalities and dynamics of the race, the McGrath-McConnell race for Kentucky Senate is anything but a lock.
On the one hand you have “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, the Methuselah of the Senate. McConnell has been befouling the halls of the Capitol since Christ was a carpenter. But every step McConnell has taken from the day he gave his first campaign speech has been with the sole purpose of gaining more power. And the more power McConnell has accumulated, the more aloof, arrogant, and authoritarian he has gotten.
But there are signs that McConnell’s run may be coming to an end. In his home state of Kentucky, polling shows that he is no more popular than recent GOP Governor Matt Bevin, who lost his posh seat in 2019, despite being a slavish Trump supporter, and despite an election eve visit from Glorious Bleater himself. And both polling as well as media interviews are showing that more and more Kentuckians are feeling that, like a Twinkie, McConnell has passed his 120 year shelf life.
But his worst mistake may have been his craven abuse of his power. McConnell personally engineered and rammed through the Senate an exemption that freed up the funds for Putin oligarch Oleg Deripaska from American sanctions. And wadda ya know? Mere weeks later, Deripaska announces that he’s building a shiny new aluminum processing plant in Kentucky. Polling in Kentucky at the time showed that many Kentucky patriots, especially in the coal counties, were not pleased with their senior Senator playing footsies with Putin’s pet.
And on the other side is Amy McGrath, a retired Lt. Colonel US Marine fighter pilot. Like so many other motivated Americans of 2018, McGrath waged a strong grassroots campaign for a US House seat in 2018, but lost so narrowly that the race wasn’t even called on election night. But McGrath’s feisty performance in that race gave her something more valuable than a House seat, statewide name recognition.
In a time when Americans are more disgusted than ever with politics as usual, McGrath is everything that McConnell is not. Straightforward, dignified, honorable, and no bullshit. While the campaign is somewhat stymied by the coronavirus, the McGrath campaign is volunteering and donating to local causes helping to mitigate the damage of the virus on Kentuckians.
More importantly than that, somebody at Team McGrath obviously had their brain Wheaties for breakfast. While McGrath is running a strong grassroots campaign, with mainly small money donors, her campaign realized something early on. She is running against a nationally reviled figure, so why not use his own notoriety against him? Starting early in her campaign, McGrath began airing ads nationwide, not just in Kentucky. The first couple of ads were highly inspirational, a kind of introduction to the country, while the last one I saw is a scathing indictment of McConnell and his tactics. Like her fellow campaigner in South Carolina, Jamie Harrison, who is running against the inexcusable “Leningrad” Lindsey Graham, these candidates are using their opponent’s reputations against them. Full Disclosure. I’m a biweekly donor myself, to both of them.
And apparently the strategy is meeting with some success. In April, McConnell’s team announced their best quarterly fundraising haul ever, and McGrath left him choking in her dust. The same thing happened with Graham and Harrison in South Carolina. Continuing this trend is critical, since both McConnell and Graham will have almost unlimited Super PAC dark money at their disposal.
But your results are starting to show up in the polls too. The last two polls out of Kentucky had the race within the margin of error, and the latest one I saw showed a statistical dead heat at 41% each. And help should be on the way. McGrath has solidly positioned herself in the race to the point that she should qualify for help from the DSCC if help is needed. And with The Lincoln Project already hammering vulnerable GOP incumbents, including McConnell from behind, this is turning into a two front war for McConnell. And as any history buff will tell him, just check with Napoleon and Hitler to see how that tends to work out.
It’s almost exactly six months from election day. There are miles to go, and surprises to come. But with McGrath’s strong showing so far, and with Trump’s popularity plummeting, and Mitch McConnell having positioned himself as the guy standing behind Trump and reminding him to zip up every time he takes a leak , this could be one of the closest, and closest watched races of this cycle.
To know the future, look to the past.before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen