Many Kentucky Democrats came to the St. Jerome Parish Picnic in Fancy Farm Saturday fully prepared to taunt U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with his newest nickname,“Moscow Mitch.” Some wore Cossack hats in the 90 degree heat, others opted for t-shirts or stickers.
McConnell, who earlier this week called the moniker “modern day McCarthyism” during a blistering speech on the Senate floor, was more relaxed about the nickname Saturday.
“You know it’s appropriate to see a bunch of Democrats running around with communist flags on their shirts,” McConnell said. “That ought to tell you where they want to take the country with the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, their whole agenda, to fundamentally change the country into something it’s never been. So I think them wearing shirts with the communist flags on it makes a lot of sense.”
The Kentucky Democratic Party has sold more than $200,000 of Moscow Mitch merchandise this week, hoping to seize on a moment of potential vulnerability for the five-term senator who is seeking his sixth term in 2020.
Several Democratic candidates running in 2019 took shots at McConnell during a dinner and breakfast leading up to the picnic — the Democratic nominee for state treasurer, Michael Bowman, said McConnell makes friendship bracelets with Russian President Vladimir Putin — but McConnell shook off the criticism.
“I’m used to getting shot at,” McConnell told the crowd at the Graves County Republican Party pancake breakfast. “I’ve been shot at by the best. By the Courier Journal, by the Herald-Leader, by MSNBC, you name it. I’ve been shot at by the best and I’m still here. And I’m ready to take them on.”
The candidate most likely to take shots at McConnell, former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath, isn’t attending the picnic this year, but that didn’t save her from the political theater surrounding the event.
At the picnic, Republicans in Team Mitch shirts were carrying poster-sized pictures of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s face and a poster with a McGrath quote saying she thinks “the wall is stupid.” Kavanaugh has become a symbol of McConnell’s largest accomplishment in the first few years of President Donald Trump’s presidency — reshaping the court system.
It also served as a reminder of an early gaffe in McGrath’s campaign, when she told reporters she would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh, then later apologized and changed her answer.
From the Fancy Farm stage, McConnell keyed in on McGrath’s early mistake, saying the Washington liberals recruited “Amy McGaffe, oh, I mean McGrath.”
“She sends her regrets,” McConnell said. “She’s still working on the answer on Brett Kavanaugh over with her friends on MSNBC.”
He went on to criticize McGrath for a fundraiser she held in Virginia shortly after launching her Senate campaign.
“I thank Amy for her bravery,” McConnell said. “Running for office in Kentucky, it takes a lot of guts to hold your first campaign event in Virginia, with the co-author of the bill allowing, now listen to this, post-birth abortions.”
McGrath’s campaign was apparently watching and responded with a knock on McConnell’s record.
“Sen. McConnell had one of the best zingers on stage when he said he is the guy who sticks up for middle America and Kentuckians,” said Terry Sebastian, a McGrath spokesman. “He cut taxes for the rich and raised them on the middle class, and he has turned his back on hard-working Kentuckians, like our coal miners. Amy will never turn her back on anyone as senator, and she proved that this week by visiting coal miners in Eastern Kentucky.”
The majority of McConnell’s speech focused on federal politics, including the large number of judicial confirmations the Senate has approved under McConnell’s leadership. But he also made time for the Kentucky candidates running in 2019, touting the low unemployment rate in the state.
“We need to reelect Gov. Bevin,” McConnell said.