Kentucky woman…She get to know you…She gonna own you…Kentucky woman,…Kentucky woman Neil Diamond Kentucky woman
I’ll admit it, I had pretty much written this one off. And it broke my heart to do so, since it had been one of my dream flips. On paper, Amy McGrath had it all. Sterling record as a decorated Marine fighter pilot, name recognition in Kentucky from her spirited run for a congressional seat two years earlier. McConnell’s almost other worldly unfavorable rating in his own home state. McGrath smartly followed the Jaime Harrison model, using McConnell’s notoriety to raise cash against him nationally.
And none of it seemed to matter. For whatever reason, McGrath just couldn’t seem to get traction in the polls. McConnell largely ignored her, and apparently so did pretty much everybody else. Because of the lackluster race, there wasn’t much polling on the race, and the last one I saw was about 6 weeks ago, and had McConnell up by 12 points.
But this is the era of Trump, where, if you’re a GOP incumbent, weeks are measured in dog’s years. But in the last six weeks, a confluence of different events have taken place that has put McGrath into a much stronger position to pull off the upset in the last three weeks. Here’s some of them.
For starters, Trump is literally killing GOP incumbents. They slavishly tied themselves to Agent Orange with barbed wire, and as a result, every stupid thing he does slops over on them. His terrible debate performance, the childish way he handled his own coronavirus infection, his insistence in continuing to hold super spreader events, his disdain for a virus the rest of the country is terrified of, all reflect on the incumbents when they stand idly by.
But McConnell is a willing, and even active accomplice. Kentucky has suffered greatly from the economic effects of the coronavirus, and that’s piled on top of the financial hardship the state suffered when China put a tariff on bourbon in response to Trump’s trade war. In their one debate, McGrath hammered away at McConnell, not only for his inactivity, but his steadfast refusal to even negotiate for a relief package that the state desperately needs. And she tied that nicely into criticism for his obsession in pushing through a SCOTUS nominee that everybody thinks should be named by the winner of the election.
Here’s another factor. That last poll I saw was taken before the Kentucky Attorney General held his cluster fuck grand jury proceeding into the death of Breonna Taylor. The Attorney General is considered a GOP rising star, and is in fact a close protégé of McConnell. McGrath made the smart tactical decision of hitting the streets, appearing at some of the daily BLM protests that followed, expressing support for BLM, and espousing full transparency and justice for Breonna. She also just happened to mention that the AG was a McConnell protégé. This could be important, if it likes African American turnout for her on election day.
And worst yet, McConnell is killing himself with arrogance. If pride goeth before a fall, then arrogance goeth before an ass whuppin’. For the most part, McConnell has completely ignored McGrath since the starters gun, treating her as a total non entity. Meanwhile, McGrath just keeps plugging away at the coal face, and McConnell’s arrogance may be blinding him to the fact that she’s making holes, especially in his lead.
But McConnell hit the zenith of his arrogance in their only debate. It was clear that McConnell showed up in corpus only, it was the last place he wanted to be, and his indifference showed. But something even worse showed as well, and in brilliant living color.
McConnell’s arrogance showed through loud and clear, but even worse, his total disdain for McGrath shined through. In the debate, he summed his opponent up with a dismissive, It seems to me that my opponent’s entire campaign consists of, “I’m a Marine, I’m a mom, and Mitch McConnell has been in Washington for too long.” To which McGrath immediately snapped back, You’ve been in Washington for 36 years, and what does Kentucky have to show for it? And the cardinal sin was gleefully laughing out loud while McGrath was making a point that was scoring heavily against him.
Whenever we talk about women in the national spotlight, the most common complaint that is voiced is that women have to show power and control without coming across as bitchy. The tag line for that is that women have to show the mysterious quality of likeability. And that is a totally legitimate complaint.
But what doesn’t get brought up as often is the fact that when a male candidate debates a female candidate, he also has a tightrope to walk. Nobody likes to see a man beating up on a woman, but at the same time, they can’t come across as being dismissive of her either. That’s the line Biden had to walk, especially against a dim bulb like Sarah Palin.
And from what I saw, McConnell came across as not just casually dismissive, but viciously dismissive of McGrath. When I watched him, I thought to myself that he must have gotten his Master’s in civility at Trump University. Along with insane Democratic urban turnout, it was also white suburban women who changed the course of the Kentucky Governor’s race. And here McConnell is, going for the daily double by ignoring black women voters, and giving white suburban women voters even more enthusiasm to show up for McGrath. Enthusiasm that seemed sadly lacking in polling.
When Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed McGrath last night, he mentioned a poll that I hadn’t seen, taken about a month ago, which showed McConnell only up by 8 points. And if that’s true, then that poll was also taken before all of the other events that I mentioned above. And while I’m not ready to put Kentucky into the flip column, I have erased the line that I drew through it not all that long ago. Keep an eye on Kentucky. 20 days. GOTV!
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