Insurgent threatens to derail McGrath-McConnell showdown in Kentucky
Amy McGrath is a national democratic icon for trying to take out Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader and slandered man on the left, and to raise tens of millions of dollars to advance her campaign.
But McConnell is not McGrath's adversary, a former fighter pilot, currently sweats the most. Instead, it is their rival in the June 23 Democratic primary: Charles Booker, a state legislature that has been practically ignored for months, but is now in full swing in the final days of the election.
Booker has been recommended by Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the two largest newspapers in Kentucky. And recent protests against police racial injustice and misconduct in Louisville, Booker's hometown, have put a spotlight on a candidate who might otherwise have been left behind, according to McGrath's television commercial.
McGrath is the favorite of the Senate Democrats' campaign arm and many sedentary senators, and it's hard to imagine that she could lose a primary in which she beat her opponents by almost 30: 1 by early June. But there are signs that it's a real race: Booker waves McGrath as a bland National Democrat who is predictably reaching into the center, while McGrath bites Booker and accuses him of playing a big game about health care and voting rights, but not securing them.
"I don't really know what position Amy McGrath takes because she goes back and forth on everything depending on what advisors seem to be saying," Booker said in an interview. "I know Kentuckians can smell BS from a distance."
"I'm not a pro-Trump democrat, as Mr. Booker claims." I'm for Kentucky and for America, ”said McGrath, refuting her top opponent in a POLITICO interview after training her fire on McConnell for months.
McGrath's position as McConnell's leading challenger and the then viral advertisement for her failed offer for 2018 has made her a favorite of small democratic donors. In early June, she had an incredible $ 19 million in cash, more than McConnell's 2014 opponent, then Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, spent on the entire election - after spending more than $ 8 million on television ads had switched.
It not only uses this advantage in spending to beat up voters with advertising. She also campaigns for the high wages of her campaign, generous healthcare, and efforts to inform people about changes in voting during the pandemic, unlike Booker and outsider Mike Broihier.
"It is really disappointing that I am the only candidate in democratic primary school who has the integrity to lead these issues in his own campaigns," she said.
But there are signs of struggles under her powerhouse fundraising. McGrath had a bumpy rollout last year and said in one of her first interviews that she had backed Brett Kavanaugh's nomination for the Supreme Court to reverse later that day. More recently, Republican governors and Cindy McCain, the late Senator John McCain's widow, have condemned ads from her who used her pictures to attack McConnell.
And McGrath has few major in-state endorsements, while Booker has been approved by prominent Kentucky media and nearly two dozen elected officials.
"The Democrats don't particularly inspire Amy. Charles' followers are very enthusiastic, ”said a prominent Kentucky Democrat who asked for anonymity to speak frankly.
Still, this democrat added that she remains a "substantial favorite" to win the primary. Private polls have shown that she has a significant double-digit lead, according to several Democrats familiar with the data.
Booker, a first-time government official, wiped McGrath's benefits, arguing that he was "at the peak at the right time."
"The momentum is very real and everywhere in Kentucky," he said.
McConnell is wallowing in a suddenly competitive primary school. After all, six years ago he faced a credible in-party challenge from Matt Bevin, the former governor.
"It was suddenly an interesting elementary school. And frankly, I don't know what to make of it," McConnell said in a short interview.
The Republicans say that any candidate in a state will be rolled under steam that Trump will easily carry despite McConnell's unpopularity in the polls, although Booker's liberal positions could make McConnell's reelection in deep red Kentucky even easier. Still, the Republicans are prepared for an expensive defense if McGrath is the candidate: A super PAC with extensive connections to McConnell reserved $ 10.8 million for television advertising in the fall to support the majority leader.
McGrath is positioned somewhere in the realm of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), A moderate Democrat who was elected in 2018 and works more with Republicans than with their own party leaders. McConnell himself declined to find out who he would prefer to face.
Support from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez helped raise fundraising for Booker, and he raised nearly $ 1 million in nine days, three times the amount for the entire first quarter. Newspaper notices and support from sports radio host Matt Jones give Booker legitimate in-state boosters outside of his base in Louisville.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Left, speaks to reporters after the Republicans' weekly lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Middle, and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Right, listen. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)
After the corona virus has halted all efforts to overthrow McGrath, the protests against the brutality of the police force a new dynamic for Booker.
"How do you run your campaign when you can't go anywhere? And then these protests come, and I think it helped Charles find his booth and voice, ”said Jones, considering whether to run for the seat and criticize the DSCC. He admitted McGrath remains the favorite, but predicted a close end.
"I don't know I've ever seen a race where someone has so much money and seems to be fighting," he added.
Most Democrats refused to criticize McGrath in the file. Even Sanders gave a cautious answer when asked why he needed to weigh it up.
"We will support progressive candidates fighting for the issues we believe in," said Sanders this week.
Democratic leaders were baffled by Sander's intervention. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Said, "Bernie may have made a promise to someone along the way."
"It is in the mainstream of democratic thought and I think it is very selectable in the Kentucky Commonwealth," said Durbin, a native of neighboring Illinois.
Despite the intrigues in the area code, Kentucky does not play a central role in the Democrats' campaign for the majority. Party officials say it is one of the longest shots to flip this election, and McGrath's money would likely go much further in North Carolina, Montana, and Iowa.
“The polls that show it's bound are real. But the composition of the undecided should give us a big break. In South Carolina, Texas, I'm more optimistic - I mean, almost every other race, ”said a Democratic senator who is familiar with the party's strategy.
McGrath was pressured on both sides of the route: Booker ran an ad saying she was not a "real democrat" and suggested she was pro-Trump while McConnell's campaign released a new ad in the she attacked her support for Trump's impeachment and called it "extreme." ”
"You can't run from a defensive squat against McConnell with a game book that has obviously been put together by advisors. You have to perform every day, write a message and keep him on your back," said Adam Jentleson, the former Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), As the top advisor, "only Charles can do that."
Broihier, a Navy veteran and farmer, also targets voters who are not sold on McGrath, and focuses on rural areas where Booker is less present while running to McGrath's left, which could complicate the projections.
"Kentucky essentially got an outside candidate," said Liam deClive-Lowe, Broihier's campaign manager. "People didn't like that."
Voter turnout is uncertain. The May election was postponed due to Covid-19 and all voters are entitled to request postal ballot papers. However, only one personal voting venue is open in each county - including Jefferson, home of Booker's base in populous Louisville - and some Democrats fear chaos similar to that in Georgia.
McGrath's campaign has joined a lawsuit over personal choices. The extensive mail-in coordination could also mean that Booker's dynamics are too low and too late.
A former elected Democrat in the state praised Booker's campaign and said his recent endorsements had "taken him from one shot to a real shot." But this former official was already absent-minded for McGrath and questioned Booker's ability to get his message across to enough voters in time.
McGrath had no problem spreading her message because her skills as a fundraiser had covered the Commonwealth airwaves for months.
"We were able to build a team that could keep up with Mitch McConnell in fundraising, and that's one of the reasons we compete with him," said McGrath. "We will face him with a challenge he has never seen before."
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