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McConnell's gender gap comes into sharper focus

McConnell's gender gap comes into sharper focus
McConnell's gender gap comes into sharper focus

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R) re-election bid in his home state of Kentucky clearly isn't easy. He's facing a deep-pocketed primary challenger, for example, and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is waiting for him in the general election. What's more, polls show McConnell struggling with Kentucky voters -- especially women.

The Republican senator is clearly aware of the problem, and is taking steps to shore up his support. McConnell's campaign, for example, recently boasted about his support for the Violence Against Women Act, despite the fact that McConnell voted against it three times. The GOP leader has also struggled to explain why he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

But a Democratic source emailed overnight to highlight a recent "Women for Team Mitch," event in Kentucky, featuring testimony from women speaking up on McConnell's behalf. One in particular stood out.

Allison Ball, a lawyer from Prestonsburg, recounted McConnell's call for former Sen. Bob Packwood, to be expelled from the Senate after he was accused of sexual harassment. [...]"The way Sen. McConnell responded to that situation was perfect," she said. "He called for the expulsion of that senator, he stood by those women."

Hmm. That's not quite how I remember it.

In fact, it McConnell's handling of the Packwood harassment scandal is supposed to be evidence of his support for women and women's interests, we should probably take a moment to get the details right.

It doesn't take too much Googling to find this New York Times editorial from 1995.

Under rising pressure to hold public hearings on accusations of sexual and official misconduct against Senator Bob Packwood, Senator Mitch McConnell, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, has resorted to bullying tactics that betray the committee's nonpartisan mission.Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has threatened to begin hearings on accusations against Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic minority leader, and into Senator Edward Kennedy's 1969 Chappaquiddick tragedy if Senator Barbara Boxer of California keeps pushing for public hearings in the Packwood case.The committee is still in the early stages of reviewing accusations that Mr. Daschle interceded improperly with Federal aviation inspectors on behalf of a friend. And raising Chappaquiddick at this stage, when there is no complaint pending against Mr. Kennedy, is game-playing. In any case, it is improper for Mr. McConnell to hold the Packwood matter hostage to unrelated issues. That is an abuse of his power as chairman.

Now, I imagine Republicans might say this was 18 years ago, and McConnell's reluctance to investigate one of his Republican allies who sexually harassed women is no longer relevant in 2013. But therein lies the point: it was the McConnell campaign's event where the issue was raised. It was the McConnell campaign that sent out a supporter to insist that the senator responded to the Packwood scandal "perfectly."

He didn't.