If you type Mitch McConnell’s name into a Google search, one of the first items that comes up is a link to a campaign donation site for the woman who hopes to oust him from the U.S. Senate.
“McConnell broke Washington,” it says. “Mitch McConnell IS the swamp. Amy McGrath is running to defeat Mitch and bring principled leadership to the Senate. If you run a Wall Street hedge fund or you're a corporate lobbyist, Mitch is your guy.”
McGrath’s pitch seems to have struck a chord. The campaign reported raising $2.5 million in the first 24 hours after her announcement. That came in the form of almost 70,000 donations averaging about $36 apiece.
Ben Jacobs, senior political reporter for Jewish Insider, noted on Twitter that fundraising numbers like that would qualify McGrath for this month’s Democratic presidential debate.
McGrath was quick to respond.
“I’d rather defeat Mitch and drain the swamp,” she tweeted.
McGrath is a former Marine Corps fighter pilot who came up short in her bid for a congressional seat last year. Now, she’s taking aim at one of the most powerful men in Washington.
To succeed, she’ll have to win over voters in a state where President Donald J. Trump won in a rout.
“If you think about why Kentucky voted for Trump, they wanted to drain the swamp, and Trump said he was gonna do that,” she told Willie Geist on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Trump promised to bring back jobs. He promised to lower drug prices for so many Kentuckians, and that’s very important.”
Though she might yet win some of his supporters, McGrath has not yet sold the president.
“Why would Kentucky ever think of giving up the most powerful position in Congress, the Senate Majority Leader, for a freshman Senator with little power in what will hopefully be the minority party,” the president tweeted. “We need Mitch in the Senate to Keep America Great!!”
McConnell has been in the Senate since 1985, and he’s been the majority leader since 2015. The last time around, facing a credible challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell won reelection with 56% of the vote.
In announcing his reelection campaign back in April, McConnell touted his deep ties to President Trump and the confirmation of two conservative Supreme Court justices in two years. His campaign tweeted out a response to McGrath's announcement with a video focusing on her more liberal stances on issues such as immigration, health care and reproductive rights.
She’s “too liberal for Kentucky,” the video says.
McGrath does have one thing going for her. She’s trying to unseat a guy Morning Consult found to be the most unpopular person in the Senate. A survey taken in the first quarter of 2019 found 36% of voters saying they approved of McConnell while 50% said they disapproved.
McGrath is looking to make him even more unpopular.
“How did it come to this, that even within our own families, we can’t talk to each other about the leaders of our country anymore without anger and blame?” she said in her 3-minute campaign video. “Well it started with this man, who was elected a lifetime ago and who has, bit by bit, year by year, turned Washington into something we all despise.”
Forget about the issues. McGrath’s goal is to attract some of the same folks who voted for Barack Obama and then turned around and cast their lot with Donald Trump in the next election.
She's making the case that McConnell is the enemy, the man responsible for much that is wrong with our country.
Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. He can be reached at email@example.com.