"Look I know how to make deals": McConnell and McGrath face off
Amy McGrath, a candidate for the Kentucky Democratic Senate, attempted to beat up Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not being a leader as they both shot partisanly at each other in their first and possibly only debate on Monday night. The early voting in the much-noticed race begins on Tuesday.
McGrath accused McConnell of giving the Supreme Court precedence over the lives of Kentuckians in need of stimulus funding since Congress stalled a deal, and McConnell tried to blame House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi.
"Look, I know how to do business. I did three important deals with Joe Biden during the Obama era. What the problem here is the spokesman's unwillingness to make a deal," McConnell said.
McGrath criticized McConnell for not being a leader and for guarding relief from Congress. She also accused him of partiality in the Senate, claiming that a former Marine like her was a leader who did not make excuses in the face of significant challenges.
McGrath turned directly to the camera and said, "Senator, you've been there for 36 years. How's Kentucky?"
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Speaks with Opponent Amy McGrath during a debate in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Michael Clubb, The Kentucky Kernel via AP Pool) / credit: Michael Clubb / AP
In one of the most memorable conversations of the night, McConnell glanced at McGrath's personal story. "I think her entire campaign is: she's a marine, she's a mother, and I've been there too long," he said.
The debate took place just hours after the first day of the Senate Justice Committee hearing on Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett closed. McGrath reminded viewers that the first case the Supreme Court takes after the election is the Affordable Care Act, which provides coverage to millions of Kentuckians.
"Nobody thinks the Supreme Court will remove the affordable care bill," McConnell said.
McConnell accused McGrath of supporting the addition of more judges to the court, which has become a late election issue as Republicans accused the Democrats of distracting themselves from it. When asked by the moderator whether or not she supports adding more judges, McGrath said, "I think we should work on unpacking the Senate now."
The debate on Monday also took place in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped not only the nation but Republicans in Washington as well. Both candidates agreed that the pandemic will not go away until after a vaccine, and McGrath called for a solid contact and follow-up plan.
Before the debate, McGrath, like Jaime Harrison, the Democrat in South Carolina, urged her opponent to take a COVID-19 test before the debate. When Senator Lindsey Graham rejected Harrison's similar motion last week, that debate was turned into a forum instead.
U.S. Senate candidate Amy McGrath listens to her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., During her debate in Lexington, Ky., Monday October 12, 2020. / Photo credit: Michael Clubb / AP
For this debate, McConnell didn't say whether or not he took a COVID-19 test. The McGrath campaign played on this but did not step back from the debate. While the Vice Presidential Debate was held last week as President Trump was recovering from COVID-19, the Presidential Debate Commission canceled the debate scheduled for October 15.
McConnell campaigned on how his position in the Senate as the only non-New York or California congressional leader has improved the lives of Kentuckians. He warned that if McGrath is in the Senate, she will have no clout and if Senator Chuck Schumer becomes majority leader, he will give New York more power.
McGrath stepped into the national spotlight in 2017 when she ran for the U.S. House against Republican Congressman Andy Barr. She raised an impressive amount of money for a House candidate but lost 51% to 48%. This cycle their campaign has achieved similarly impressive numbers, but with some problems.
In that year's primary, McGrath faced a growing challenge from Kentucky State Representative Charles Booker, who entered the race late but boosted his support for racial justice protests with people wanting a more liberal candidate than McGrath .
In primary charges against them, Booker said Kentucky needed "a real Democrat" who "wouldn't just help Trump find his way". McGrath has tried to play at the center of the party since she started her Senate campaign. She said in an interview last summer during the week she started that she supported Judge Brett Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court, but the statement was later declined after "further reflection and understanding."
A recent Quinnipiac poll found McConnell McGrath leads with 53% to 41%, and the top issues in the race according to voters were the economy with 26%, followed by law and order with 20% and health care with 13%.
McConnell's campaign over the past few weeks has aired television commercials calling McGrath an extremist liberal and pairing her image side by side with Pelosi and Senator Kamala Harris, fellow Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden. Other Red State Republican candidates like Tommy Tuberville, Alabama and incumbent Steve Daines, Montana, have used Biden in place of Harris to keep their challengers on the left.
McConnell is a popular target for the Democrats, who encourage voters to watch out for change. In the Democratic presidential primary election, candidates often mentioned McConnell's name on the trail to illustrate that if McConnell ran the Senate, Democratic politics could not move forward.
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