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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Amy McGrath Gives Dems High-Profile Challenger to Beat McConnell

There is some good news from the Bluegrass State. In their article, “Amy McGrath answers Democratic groups’ prayers in Senate bid against McConnell,” Karl Evers-Hillstrom and Jessica Piper explain at opensecrets.org:

Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky last year, will try to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2020.

Much to the delight of Democratic groups that have been furiously recruiting McGrath for months, the likely Democratic nominee announced her decision to run Tuesday morning with a video slamming McConnell as someone who has “turned Washington into something we all despise.”

Notorious for rejecting bills passed by the Democratic-led House, McConnell has become the boogeyman for Democratic candidates and groups alike. Democratic presidential candidates cited the Republican leader as the ultimate roadblock on the debate stage last month, while liberal groups prominently feature McConnell in solicitations and attack ads.

A former marine fighter pilot, Lt. Col. McGrath lost her 2018 mid-term campaign for KY-6 to Republican incumbent Andy Barr by a margin of 3.2 percent — but in a district Trump won by 15 percent in 2016. Evers-Hillstrom and Piper note further,

With so much Democratic focus on defeating McConnell, McGrath will likely find substantial financial support again in 2020. Ditch Mitch, a PAC solely dedicated to beating the Republican leader that raised $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2019, released a statement Tuesday that it was “all in” on McGrath’s Senate bid. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will likely spend heavily on the race, given that Democratic leaders encouraged McGrath to run.

Call it a long-shot. McConnell will also be extremely well-funded, as Piper and Evers-Hillstrom add that Majority Leader McConnell, who is married to Trump’s Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, received 77 percent of his funding from out-of-state donors during 2013-2018. He raised $5.3 million in first quarter of 2019 and “raised more than $21 million when he won reelection in 2014, garnering 56 percent of the vote over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

Yet some analysts believe that McConnell may be vulnerable to an upset in 2020, as the poster-boy for GOP gridlock, who angered many moderates with his refusal to give President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland even a meeting, much less a fair hearing. McConnell has also boasted about his continuing role as an uncompromising obstructionist regarding anything Democrats support. His arrogance may be wearing thin.

In their book, “American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper,” political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson blame McConnell as instrumental in transforming the GOP into a “party geared increasingly, not to governing, but to making governance impossible.” Under McConnell’s “leadership,” the GOP has repeatedly threatened to force the U.S. into debt default, with McConnell calling it “a hostage that’s worth ransoming.” It’s not hard to envision some effective attack ads slamming McConnell as the ‘Godfather of Gridlock’ in government.

McConnell’s family and his campaign have also benefitted from some unsavory financial dealingsLance Perriman notes further at Political Dig:

The New York Times reports that Chao has blatantly leveraged her position in Trump’s Cabinet to benefit her family’s shipping business, the Foremost Group. In 2017, she had planned a visit to Beijing, ostensibly on government business, and has also arranged for members of the family to attend government meetings. This so alarmed the U.S. embassy that staffers there got in touch with the State Department to find out how to handle it.

Never let it be said that McConnell himself isn’t doing his part to ensure the corruption of the Republican Party. You will recall that he was personally responsible for the government not warning the public about Russian interference — and remains committed to blocking all election protection bills in the Senate, even those sponsored by Republicans. And he isn’t one to turn down voting-machine lobbyist money, either.

There is some evidence that McConnell’s popularity with Kentucky voters is slipping. Tal Axelrod reports at The Hill that a survey by Public Policy Polling for the ‘Ditch Mitch Fund’ in February found that “About 33 percent of registered Kentucky voters polled approve of the job McConnell is doing, while 56 percent disapprove and 11 percent are unsure. Additionally, 32 percent think McConnell “deserves to be reelected,” and 61 percent think it’s “time for someone new.”

So far there are two other Democrats running for their party’s nod to challenge McConnell, Steven Cox and Jimmy Ausbrooks, but McGrath is the most well-known candidate at the moment. Whoever becomes McConnell’s Democratic opponent will certainly have plenty of ammo for what may be the marquee senate battle of 2020.

McGrath’s introductory ad:

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