LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell rarely betrays any sentiment, but, as he delivered a miniature version of his stump speech at an airplane hangar here, he cracked a smile. That’s because he’s had some very good news.
McConnell is ahead in all recent polls, including yesterday’s NBC News survey that found his advantage over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes to be nine points. Maybe that’s why Monday morning’s event, held just before McConnell hopped on a plane to Lexington, lasted no more than ten minutes for a total of three speakers.
McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, said she was proud to be the wife of the next majority leader. “Kentucky needs someone willing to stand up to Obama and fight for our values and our jobs,” she said. Kentucky’s other senator, Rand Paul, gave a stone-faced speech saying the election would be a “repudiation of President Obama’s agenda.”
Paul praised McConnell for being a “leader in protecting the First Amendment.” He was likely referring to McConnell’s opposition to limits on corporate spending in campaigns. Paul also said McConnell had kept the party “unified and focused,” a veiled reference to intra-party fighting. (When Paul ran in 2010, McConnell endorsed Paul’s establishment rival. McConnell is not beloved by the tea party members who rallied around Paul.)
When it was McConnell’s turn, he kept it brief. He mentioned, again, that foreign reporters are covering his race. “Norway? I thought that was a holler up in Pike County that I missed,” said the man who has been in Washington for 30 years. The crowd laughed incredulously when McConnell mentioned Al Jazeera.
“They’re wondering whether America will still be number one,” McConnell said of the reporters. (They are likely wondering whether there will be a good story in a young woman upsetting the epitome of an establishment Republican — not looking likely in this case.) “I’m here to tell you we will still be number one,” McConnell said.
Nothing is final until Election Day, but chances looked better than ever that McConnell himself would still be number one.