Politics & Government

McConnell named one of Time’s ‘Most Influential’ as he embraces Trump in re-election video

Senator Mitch McConnell: ‘Fear not, your country’s in great shape’

United States Senator Mitch McConnell spent an hour Tuesday morning speaking to a group of community leaders and citizens at the Community Arts Center in Danville, Ky.
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United States Senator Mitch McConnell spent an hour Tuesday morning speaking to a group of community leaders and citizens at the Community Arts Center in Danville, Ky.

Mitch McConnell officially kicked off his 2020 reelection campaign with a video that makes it clear he’ll run as closely tied to President Donald Trump as he can get.

The Kentucky Republican touts his success at delivering two Supreme Court justices to Trump in a three-minute video that includes footage of Trump hailing the Senate Majority Leader as a “rock-ribbed Kentucky leader.”

It also shows McConnell eager to confront Democrats, highlighting in the opening seconds his decision in 2016 to block consideration of Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. McConnell has called his decision to not hold hearings during an election year his “proudest moment,” even as Democrats have seethed.

The video’s release came as McConnell was named as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2019.” Former House Speaker John Boehner in the magazine wrote that “with his mastery of parliamentary procedure and commitment to principled democratic governance, he has shaped the direction of the Supreme Court for generations to come.”

Mitch McConnell has delivered on President Trump's promise to Make America Great Again by leading the fight for conservative values in the Senate.

The video also comes as McConnell’s campaign on Monday announced that he’d raised $2.1 million in the first three months of the year, a record for the veteran senator that puts potential challengers on notice that he plans an aggressive effort as he campaigns in a state where Trump remains popular, more popular than the six-term senator.

McConnell doesn’t yet have a Democratic opponent and seems unlikely to face a repeat primary challenger as he did in 2014. But he remains a top target for national Democrats, who still fault him for ostensibly denying Obama a Supreme Court seat.

Democrats on Wednesday marked McConnell’s official entry by accusing him of becoming Washington’s “most self-serving creature” after more than three decades in office.

“Mitch McConnell has lost touch with Kentucky, his record has made him one of the most unpopular senators in the country, and voters will hold him accountable in 2020,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Stewart Boss. He accused McConnell of delivering a “generous tax cut at the expense of the middle class” to the “big corporations and wealthy special interests that grease Washington.”

McConnell highlights the 2017 Republican tax bill in the video, along with boasts about the economy improving under Republican leadership. McConnell has generally backed the president, even as Trump has tested Republicans’ patience with intemperate tweets and insistence on a border wall with Mexico that sparked a 35-day government shutdown earlier this year. McConnell himself had acknowledged he’d be one of national Democrats’ top targets in 2020.

“I’m sure I’m the one Republican every Democrat in the country will want to beat other than Donald Trump, with whom I will be on the ballot and I do share that honor with him,” McConnell told the Lexington Herald-Leader last December after successfully championing legislation to legalize hemp. “I’m sure it will attract resources all over the country.”

At the first Kentucky Hemp Days fest in Cynthiana, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles hailed the crop’s progress and supported full legalization a day after U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell inserted hemp language in the Farm Bill.

And the video touts McConnell’s role in pushing to legalize hemp, featuring audio of Kentucky Sports Radio show host Matt Jones noting that legalized hemp “should have a big effect on Kentucky.”

Jones has expressed interest in challenging McConnell and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has reached out to Amy McGrath, a Democratic star who lost a Kentucky congressional race in 2018. In addition to the tweak at Jones, McConnell’s “Team Mitch” website on Wednesday temporarily linked to a so-called “404” error page that showed Garland standing next to Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden. A caption read “Oops this page doesn’t exist, but just in case go donate and make sure it doesn’t come back.”

The video touts McConnell’s role in securing Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh to the court and his campaign website is also selling “Kentucky Tough” t-shirt with Trump’s praising McConnell for the confirmation vote. “He’s Kentucky tough!” the t-shirt quotes Trump as saying of McConnell at a 2018 campaign rally in Kentucky for Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky. “He stared down the angry left-wing mob. He never blinked and he never looked back.”

And McConnell wrote the piece on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined him on the Time 100. He wrote that Kavanaugh, who denied charges of sexual misconduct in high school, was confirmed to the bench despite “unhinged partisanship.”

And McConnell wrote, he displayed “his resilience and commitment to public service. We saw his loyal devotion to family and friends. We saw his undeterred reverence for the law, for precedents and for our nation’s highest traditions.”