MAYFIELD, Ky. — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had one message Saturday morning: make me the Majority Leader and I'll fix things.
McConnell spoke at a Kentucky GOP breakfast before the state's annual Fancy Farm political showdown. He barely mentioned his Democratic opponent — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes — and made zero mention of his challenger from the right, Matt Bevin.
Instead McConnell spoke at length about President Barack Obama, who remains deeply unpopular in Kentucky, and slammed the Democrats in Washington, saying his potential ascent to Majority Leader in 2014 was the most important aspect of the entire race.
"This is not just an election about who gets to be senator from Kentucky, this is about who sets the agenda for America," he said.
It's the same playbook other politicians have recently used in red states: tie your Democratic opponent to Obama, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Majority Leader Harry Reid at every opportunity.
In turn, Grimes and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are working to make the race a referendum on McConnell's unpopularity.
Saturday morning's Republican audience was on the same page as McConnell when it came to Democrats, but the underlying message to would-be Bevin supporters was that McConnell would have power in 2014 if the Senate flipped and Bevin would not.
"The are limits to what you can accomplish in divided government but you can prevent further damage. But to really turn the country around there's only one solution, and it begins in 2014," McConnell said. "We have to change the United States Senate and make me the leader instead of Harry Reid."
He called job one of "Majority Leader McConnell's" agenda to repeal the health care law by "root and branch." Bevin has attacked McConnell for not signing onto a conservative pledge to block a government funding resolution unless it repeals Obamacare, but McConnell pledged at the breakfast it'd be his number one goal if he ascended to Majority Leader.
He reminded the audience that Obama had only won four out of 120 counties and said it was "safe to say Kentucky does not support Barack Obama's agenda." McConnell acknowledged he was in for a long and expensive race as Democrats sought to unseat him.
"You stand up to Barack Obama all of his friends come after you, every left winger you've ever read about— those who want the San Francisco type agenda for America. Those east coast liberals that dominate the Democratic party who crack the whip every day on the Senate floor want to see Kentucky defeat the Republican Leader of the senate … let's send them a message," he said.
Kate Nocera is the DC Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed’s Washington, DC bureau. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.
Contact Kate Nocera at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.