The Plan to Take Down Mitch McConnell

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You can say what you want about Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell but at least he's got a sense of humor. He's pretty legendary. He keeps he has like lots and lots of framed political cartoons in his office and and he he really savors the best ones Ryland Barton covers McConnell for Kentucky public radio he says as McConnell gears up for twenty twenty reelection campaign. He's got jokes. There is a political cartoon just from yesterday from the Herald Leader Lexington's newspaper Joel pet this great cartoonist he had this cartoon of Mitch McConnell Digging Graves in this cartoon McConnell surrounded by headstones. There's one the middle class another coal miners and another for campaign finance reform and McConnell. He's digging more graves and the graves that he was digging are his you know a possible democratic opponents for this twenty twenty race is coming up and Mitch McConnell actually tweeted this out saying of all the six hundred political cartoons that had been drawn about me over the years this one might be by favorite so his plan is she. Just bury any opposition literally the figuratively certainly in that cartoon. Yes I mean that's that's the plan in something. He's done really well over the years since he became the Senate majority leader back in in two thousand fifteen Mitch McConnell has become this boogeyman for the Democrats preventing their agenda from going anywhere Nancy Pelosi even held a press conference where she called McConnell the grim reaper since he's killed so much of her legislation but Ryland says the secret to McConnell success is that he hears this kind of criticism and instead of running from it instead of being intimidated by it. He's like sure bring it on and I think that's really emblematic kind of <hes> part of why McConnell is so successful. I guess he takes punches well. He embraces a lot of the criticism but McConnell popular at home. No He's not actually it's the Senate majority leader. You're the guy who has been causing so many headaches for the Democratic Party back in Kentucky Kentucky as the most unfavorable rating of opinion of McConnell as compared to any other state of their senators and you know this is something that that's that's something that existed in the last time around when he was running for reelection. Two Thousand Fourteen Democrats think he's vulnerable now. They're running a campaign against him. One candidates already in the race others seem like they're about to jump in and McConnell mostly seems amused and of course since he's become the Senate majority leader you know there's this huge argument to be made on his part. That's like all right. What are you going to do you know unseat one of the most powerful people in the United States government government and replace me with a freshman Democratic senator who may or may not be in the minority party at the very back bench Mitch McConnell come at me Bra exactly today on the show how long will Mitch McConnell be able to laugh off the Democrats who wanNA take his seat? I'm Mary Harass. You are listening to what next stick with us <music> from slate. I'm Seth Stevenson. I'm from the Economist. I'm Tom Stanage. We're back with a second season of our podcast that looks to the past for lessons about what's coming next. It's called the secret history of the future in in season two were digging even deeper to find unexpected and illuminating stories of bygone technology million details and a lot to learn along the way more curious tales from history for centuries. Italians had never eaten tomato more. For Amazing discoveries from the present day what would it be to have superhuman music on more predictions about the future of Technology D._N._A.. Is Complex Science subscribe to the secret history of the future season two on apple podcasts or wherever you listen the candidate the Democrats are betting on right now. In this race against Mitch McConnell. Her name is amy McGrath and her name sounds familiar. That's because she ran a campaign to represent Kentucky in the House of Representatives resentatives just last year. She got a lot of attention for it. She also lost but she has this compelling story. She was a female fighter pilot one of the first of flying combat and when she launched her senate campaign this week she took aimed squarely at Mitch McConnell. I was thirteen years old and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It's it's very compelling story. Where <hes> you know when amy McGrath is a kid <hes> she was growing up in northern Kentucky near Covington which is kind of like a suburb of Cincinnati almost like across the river and she wanted to grow up and be a fighter pilot <hes> and <hes> there is a a rule the time that a band women from <hes> being in combat and so she she wrote to Mitch McConnell who's been our senator here for a long time <hes> and and you know asking for his support to overturn this rule he never wrote back? I'm Amy Amy McGrath and I've often wondered how many other people did Mitch McConnell never take time to write back or even think about and so that's that's how she's kind of setting the stage for her candidacy so yes she she was really coming at this from this personal. <hes> you know this personal story and then she goes on to say that you know he's part of the problem in Washington <hes> that you know everybody in in Kentucky opposes I mean you. You mentioned this a little bit. Amy McGrath is I've been here before. She ran for the House of Representatives last time around and she lost. Did you cover her then yeah <hes> so she was running in the <hes> the sixth district in Kentucky which is around Lexington. That's Kentucky's second biggest city but it's it's Lexington and then you know a bunch of rural areas around it as well. It's a district that Democrats felt like they could flip. It's really kind of true swing district. It's gone back and forth between Republicans and Democrats over the last twenty thirty years and and it was this knocked down drag-out fight of very expensive race a lot of money spent on it. She raised a whole lot of money for it and in the end yet ended up being pretty close so it was all eyes were on that race and she ended up losing just by three three points yeah it's interesting because she was recruited reportedly to run for the Senate seat by Chuck Schumer but of course she'd lost the House of Representatives race and I it's sort of sets up this idea that she seems to feel right to the people but has she shown the sort of momentum votes wise to prove that she can do this. I think she did over perform. What many other Democrats would do in that Congressional district? She did pretty well lost a tight race but what she's shown is that <hes> and I think that why she was she so appealing is that one she has very compelling record and life story <HES> and she's also shown that she can raise a whole lot the money and that's like. I think that's one of the big things that they're looking for against McConnell well. I'm glad you brought up the money because as soon as amy McGrath announced her candidacy really quickly she raised a boatload of cash two and a half million dollars in twenty four hours. I think it's a massive amount of money in a short period of time <hes> she similarly thinks she raised over eight million dollars just for the congressional race last year and she somebody who gets she's getting attention not only in the state but across the country she somebody who. You can pull fundraisers around the country and get people to give her money yeah. Where's this money coming from? Is it coming from Kentucky is it coming from people is coming from companies <hes> at least for the at least for the donation Sir campaign. It's individually it's coming from individuals and they're giving some some stat that in that first twenty four hours it was small donations that the it was like a median <hes> or an average donation of thirty six dollars but yeah there's been a there's been a lot of people donating from out of state. I I don't have the the breakdown breakdown in front of me right now but it's a lot. Is that a pro or con. When you're running a Racing Kentucky oh it certainly something that McConnell's GonNa run against her on and that Republicans will say that she's raising all this money for Massachusetts from California granted granted the same thing goes from McConnell as well Mukalla gets a lot of attention from from around the country and he gets a lot of help from a big time Republican donors around the country so amy McGrath has the right story or at least she's got a fat wallet but when you run as a Democrat in Kentucky Ryan says you have to be ready to do battle I mean Kentucky's this really interesting case study in which like it was controlled by Democrats for almost all of state history until you know say starting in the early nineteen eighteen eighty s <hes> that's when started voting Republican federal elections until our <hes> current governor was finally elected <hes> two thousand fifteen and that's when kind of the cycle was complete in which Republicans are winning state elections <hes> regularly Louis to my own humble assessment of the situation at it comes down to a lot of big social issues? I think there's a lot of one issue voters and if they're candidate doesn't stand with them on abortion then they're gonNA. They're gonNA vote for the candidate. They stands with them on that a particular issue and I think there's a lot of conservative Democrats of again going back into Kentucky's history used to vote Democrat and they don't anymore because of issues like that. Something else happened right. After she announced her candidacy which is she started talking about the issues as you would do when you're running for Senate and she really quickly got into some trouble right so I she made this clint this statement on Morning Joe <hes> where she said that she took his tack of saying Kentuckians voted overwhelmingly in favor of Donald Trump in two thousand sixteen and <hes> and because they wanted him to drain the swamp they want him to get drug prices down and bring jobs back and he hasn't been able to do that because of Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell's getting in the way of Donald Trump's agenda so she doesn't come out and give this full third endorsement of Donald Trump but she is kind of you know dancing around that very thing. She's trying to straddle this. <hes> you know it's the really trying trying to do this thing. The Democrats have had the have struggled and tried to do in Kentucky for the last while which is like be conservative Democrat and try and not lose you know your your liberal support and some of the bigger cities <hes> <hes> so there is that statement and I think that raised a few eyebrows but then the cavenaugh thing was really the the thing where a lot of her supporters were were pretty angry about it in an effort to sort of play to the left and the right amy McGrath got herself tangled up when she was asked if she would have voted to confirm Cavanaugh on the Supreme Court and because she ran for Congress year just as his nomination fight was going down she was already on the record about a lot of this so she had this record of statements against Kevin Already during your congressional race and then in this interview she says Oh yeah I would I would have voted to confirm him <hes> but then within hours of those interviews getting published that afternoon last week or that afternoon last week <hes> she she came out and retracted her statement on twitter <hes> and apologized to her <hes> two or support supporters saying that she upon further review of his record that she would not have in fact <hes> voted to confirm him. Mitch McConnell must be drooling over this back. In fourth yeah this is playing right into Mitch McConnell's hands like she was she was doing his job for him. Basically <hes> one of her possible opponents actually a guy who's thinking about running to about running as a Democrat so possible primary Challenger under scanning Matt Jones. Somebody asked him last week all right so what's going on with McGrath. What would you think is happening? He said you know I think she's just been consulted to death. I think that you know there's all these people who they have this line this idea of how a a Democrat can win and Kentucky and what they have to do and that involves this kind of like hybrid conservative Democrat. You know say that you're not partisan say that you don't really care about party but you know these issues you stand for and try to don't criticize has the president too much and that the whole messaging is confused right now that that was the least his line. I think that that there's probably some I'd lend some credence to that. Tell me a little bit about who this match Jones. Guy Is so matt. Jones is a radio host. He hosts Kentucky Sports Radio. It's this incredibly popular show about the University of Kentucky Basketball and so he's incredibly well known across the state and also like U._k.. Basketball as king here so that's kind of a like some say unfortunate discussed to be having in politics but thing is I would say it's arguably. There's a lot more Kentucky's who care about U._k.. Basketball than who care about what's really going on in Washington or what's going on in the statehouse <hes> I I hate to say that but <hes> you know that's that's something that a reason why this guy could end up being a possible contender against McGrath again. Amy McGrath's pretty new on the scene she still getting her name out. <hes> especially especially across the state you know after just running a small congressional race to now pivoting to working on a statewide campaign but again she's got the she's. She's going to have the the funds to do. It and you know we'll see how well she's able to get that story out there listening to this whole conversation there is this bigger problem I see which is how likely is it that anyone would defeat a sitting majority leader. It just seems like that position. Addition comes with so much power and so much money that I don't even know the last time it happened. Yeah I <hes> I don't know either. That's part of the case. McConnell is GonNa make <hes> you know he's a sitting Senate. Majority leader. He's got a lot of power <hes> he he can put a lot of issues that Kentucky Inns care about at the front of the line <hes> in Congress <hes> and he's going to bring back a lot of pork <hes>. I think that's something he's been kind unabashed about. Is that his connections in Washington Help Kentucky or that's at least the case he makes his wife is Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and about all their connections to the transportation industry and how they were able to get the projects approved in the Kentucky area and the thing is like yeah he's proud of that and he's going to kind of <hes> he's going to run to the polls with it where where some people might characterize it as corrupt he's again. He's just kind of embracing Dan all right Ryland Barton. You're going to be following it hallway through. Thanks for telling us about it. Thanks for listening to me. Ryland Barton is the State House reporter for Kentucky Public Radio All right. That's the show what next is hosted by me Mary Harris and produced by my colleagues. Mary Wilson Jason De Leon and Ethan Brooks everyday. 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