When it comes to the 2020 congressional elections, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky seat is — to quote Joe Pesci’s character in “Home Alone” — the silver tuna.
The Democrats thought they had it back in 2014. Then, the Cook Political Report called the race a “Toss Up” and candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was shown surging in the polls, taking the lead in some of them. Democrat money began pouring in. Then, after an iffy debate performance, she lost by 16 points. Whoops.
Then again, 2014 was a great year for Republicans. In 2020, who knows?
That’s why Democrats were all excited about Amy McGrath, a former Marine pilot who almost unseated GOP Rep. Andy Barr last year. She announced her candidacy last week with a three-minute video titled “The Letter.”
In the interim, she’s managed to embarrass herself with a flip-flop on whether she would have confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, but that’s kind of bush-league stuff when you look closer at her launch ad stunt.
The video begins with McGrath at a table writing, with a voice-over saying that when she was 13, she “sat at this table and wrote a letter to my senator telling him I wanted to fly fighter jets in combat, to fight for my country, and that women should be able to do that. He never wrote back.”
She then wonders, “How many other people did Mitch McConnell never take the time to write back?”
There was the predictable parade of individuals who were writing letters to McConnell, including a jobless steel worker, a woman afraid of losing her health care, a student struggling to get loans — you know the drill. It’s kind of like the campaign ad version of one of those John Wayne movies from the 1950s, when he leads a platoon of stereotyped caricatures into battle. The only thing missing is the Italian kid who misses mom’s home cooking — though presumably, in this advertisement, he wouldn’t be able to eat because mom’s food-stamp benefits were cut.
Anyway, here is McGrath’s ad, which gives the impression these were people who wrote to McConnell about their plight and didn’t get an answer.
I’m running to replace Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate. Everything that’s wrong with Washington had to start somewhere—it started with him. With your help, we can defeat Mitch and defend democracy. Join us: https://t.co/c4b0WAp4ji pic.twitter.com/DNLjFkHGua
— Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) July 9, 2019
“Everything that’s wrong in Washington had to start someplace. How did it come to this?” McGrath said after introducing this motley retinue. “Well, it started with this man, who was elected a lifetime ago, and who has bit by bit, year by year, turned Washington into something we all despise. Where dysfunction and chaos are political weapons. Where budgets and health care and the Supreme Court are held hostage. A place where ideals go to die.”
Speaking of where ideals go to die, it turns out that these letters to McConnell were postmarked the same day this video was released.
Last Friday, Roll Call reported that a spokesman for the Senate majority leader said that three of the four letters in the video were received by his office in Louisville on Thursday bearing a postmark of July 9 — Tuesday, the same day that McGrath’s video hit Twitter.
“Throughout Senator McConnell’s entire Senate service, he has prioritized constituent correspondence and takes seriously his responsibility to hear from and respond to Kentuckians,” a statement from Kentucky Communications Director Robert Steurer said. “In fact, since he was elected to the Senate, he has sent more than 4 million pieces of correspondence to his constituents.”
A spokeswoman for McGrath’s office said the video was intended to be a composite of people who had talked to her and “wanted to write and send a letter” to McConnell. “Their stories represent the concerns of thousands of Kentuckians, and they would love the opportunity to sit down with Senator Mitch McConnell in person to tell them what they’ve been going through in their daily lives,” the spokeswoman said.
That’s not the message of the video, however. McGrath is using the old trope of a politician who goes to Washington and cares more about the goings-on in the Capitol than his own constituents. Except it wasn’t true — those constituents hadn’t even sent letters.
McGrath is probably in deeper trouble over her Kavanaugh remarks, which managed to alienate both liberal and independent voters at the same time. That being said, at least that controversy wasn’t a matter of outright dishonesty. This is. It’s fitting that McGrath kicked off her campaign in such an obviously sleazy way. At least Kentuckians know exactly what they’re dealing with.
As for Democrats, if this is your great hope for 2020, that silver tuna is going the way of Alison Lundergan Grimes yet again.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.