McConnell, Trump joined for 2020, despite Kentucky setback

AP File Photo

President Donald Trump answers questions with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the Rose Garden after their meeting at the White House, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, in Washington.

LONDON -- Setting likely themes for his 2020 reelection bid, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that his leadership role in Congress allows Kentucky to "punch above its weight" in national politics.

Speaking to a business group in London, Kentucky, the Republican leader also set his sights on Democrat Amy McGrath, calling her his "likely opponent" in the coming election season. McGrath, a retired Marine combat pilot who narrowly lost a 2018 congressional race, is among the Democrats vying to challenge him.

Without naming McGrath directly, McConnell predicted a "robust" debate next year. The senator also noted that she raised nearly $11 million in the first three months of her campaign, saying her donors "don't know who she is, but they know who I am."

"I'm her finance chairman," McConnell quipped.

As the top-ranking Republican in Congress, McConnell is a lightning rod for Democrats across the country who want to see him ousted from the Senate. McConnell has been a key ally of President Donald Trump for, among other things, putting a flock of conservative judges on the federal bench.

McGrath's campaign fired back at McConnell's attempt to turn his leadership post into a political asset.

"Sen. McConnell has never faced an opponent like Amy McGrath," said her campaign spokesman, Terry Sebastian. "Her record of military service and integrity contrasts his 35 years in the Washington swamp, which is why he keeps peddling the same old line that somehow Kentuckians are benefiting when in fact it's Sen. McConnell who has benefited."

McConnell is seeking a seventh Senate term in 2020.

Kentucky is coming off a statewide election this month in which Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear defeated Republican Gov. Matt Bevin by a slim margin. But the GOP won the other statewide elections to continue its dominance of Bluegrass State politics. Kentucky voters have not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.

McConnell said Monday that Kentuckians will decide next year whether they want to keep the only congressional leader from the U.S. heartland. He said he's ready to "take my case" to voters.

"You'll be able to make a choice at the end of the year about whether Kentucky wants to still punch above its weight," he said. "Whether we still want to have one of the four leaders (in Congress) not from New York or California."

Also Monday, McConnell took a jab at national Democrats, led by several of their presidential candidates, saying they want to lead the country toward socialism and citing the Green New Deal and "Medicare for All" proposals.

"They're going to promise you everything under the sun," McConnell said. "There are not enough rich people to pay for it. ... So be skeptical."

The Senate majority leader is known for his bare-knuckled campaign style lambasting or lampooning his opponents, beginning with his first Senate race when he unseated Democrat Walter "Dee" Huddleston. McConnell has referred to himself as the "Grim Reaper" for his strategy of burying the legislative priorities of House Democrats in the GOP-led Senate.

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