The 2020 elections just got contentious on a new front. Kentucky Democrat (and veteran) Amy McGrath announced this week that she’s challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for his seat. Although some consider her bid a longshot in the deeply “red” Kentucky, her campaign reports that in its first official 24 hours, they raised more than any other Senate campaign ever, bringing in some $2.5 million. Over $1 million of that came in within less than six hours following McGrath’s campaign announcement, and the average contribution was $36.15.
The next most prosperous Senate campaign in terms of its first day of donations is that of astronaut Mark Kelly, who raised about $1 million in day one his Arizona bid. If Democrats can funnel this energy to topple McConnell, it would represent a no doubt seismic shift of power in the U.S. Senate. He has proudly touted himself as the “Grim Reaper,” refusing to bring a long line of House Democratic bills to the floor. These bills cover key areas of American politics, from election security and government ethics to health care, some of which are very popular among Americans. McConnell doesn’t care.
Democrats have attempted to take on McConnell before. In 2014, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes took him on, but she ultimately lost the general election by a significant margin, although it’s worth noting that there’s been a dramatic shift in the general direction of American elections since then. The rise of President Donald Trump has energized progressives and those otherwise on the left dramatically; Democrats claimed some 40 new seats in the U.S. House just last year in the midterm elections.
McGrath, unfortunately enough, was not among those new House Democrats although she challenged an incumbent Republican. She lost that race by a small margin of about four percent. Her current bid against McConnell is too new for there to be any relevant polling, but McConnell’s approval rating is very low, not just nationally where in this case it would be irrelevant but in the state of Kentucky too. In February, Public Policy Polling found that only about 33 percent of Kentucky voters approved of the job McConnell was doing in office, which doesn’t exactly represent a winning coalition. He may have faced a Democrat before, but he has never before faced the rising anti-swamp sentiment of the 2020 race.
McGrath says on her campaign website that she is running to “fix Washington and give Kentuckians back their voice,” noting that she “always prioritizes practical solutions over partisan interests” and presenting the following as a tagline:
‘Anti-corruption. Anti-obstruction. Anti-B.S.’
McConnell’s side has already rolled out a response, pointing to McGrath’s past comments about her progressivism as a supposed reason Kentuckians should stay away from her. Time will tell which side they listen to. Even if it’s a slim one, she has a chance.
The race will be unfolding in the shadow of the presidential race, in which Trump will be taking on one of likely only a few Democrats, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. Trump has polled poorly against all of them in hypothetical general election match-ups.
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