Herald-Leader Editorial

McConnell risks negativity backlash

McConnell risks negativity backlash

July 25, 2013 

Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, is Kentucky's senior senator.

U.S. SENATE PHOTO/JEFF MCEVOY

Sen. Mitch McConnell's insta-attacks are burnishing his national image as the ultimate political predator.

But could they come back to bite him in Kentucky?

McConnell is being so petty and dismissive toward his challengers — "nuisance" was Team Mitch's word for Republican Matt Bevin who entered the race this week — that voters might wonder: Does McConnell think that, just because he's been there 30 years, he owns a seat in the U.S. Senate?

Kentuckians own that Senate seat.

And, though McConnell is the master attacker, he is also taking a risk: By the time voters get to the polls, they could have had such a belly full of his negativity they just might un-elect him.

The primary is ten months away, and already McConnell is in full attack mode, hoping to decapitate his challengers before they get started; remember he called this the "Whac-a-Mole" phase.

McConnell enjoys a reputation of not only attacking more effectively than anyone in politics but also of delivering career-ending blows.

That isn't entirely true; Steve Beshear lost to McConnell and later became governor. More to the point, being the nastiest in a nasty game is not that compelling a reason to vote for someone.

McConnell's supporters dismissed Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, as a puppet of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid until her awkward announcement, which obviously was not stage managed from Washington. Then McConnell dismissed her as "not ready for prime time."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee created a website called GrimesforSenate.org that accuses her of "hiding from voters" and seeks money for McConnell. Digital dirty tricks may have become politics as usual, but stealing someone else's name does not inspire admiration.

Team Mitch greeted Bevin, a Tea Party Republican, with what Politico called a "slashing TV ad."

We'll leave it to GOP primary voters to judge whether accepting a government grant to salvage a 180-year-old family business after a devastating fire constitutes a "bailout," as McConnell asserts, and disqualifies Bevin as a "Kentucky conservative."

Suffice it to say that McConnell, who voted to bail out banks but not the auto industry, never lets facts stand in the way of a good attack.

Meanwhile, voters are left to wonder why McConnell has had 30 years in the Senate, the last four as the No. 1 Republican, but isn't highlighting his accomplishments.

McConnell is a chief architect of the dysfunctional U.S. Congress and its historically high disapproval ratings — 83 percent of Americans, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

He also has been one of his party's most prominent faces at a time when the GOP suffered a second defeat by Obama, whom McConnell had famously vowed to make a one-term president.

You don't have to be a master strategist like McConnell to see why he wants to keep the spotlight on his challengers.

Still, instead of acting like he owns a Senate seat, McConnell could try appealing to Kentuckians by offering a constructive idea or two — if he has any.

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