FLORENCE, Ky. — It is not easy these days to lose as a Republican running in ruby-red Kentucky. But that is what happened here in November in the governor’s race, when the caustic incumbent managed to alienate enough of his base to fall just short.
This year, another polarizing and unpopular Republican will be up for reelection in the Bluegrass State. But Mitch McConnell has at least one key advantage that former governor Matt Bevin did not: As perhaps the most powerful man on Capitol Hill, he is positioned to drive a stake through efforts to oust a Republican who remains indisputably admired among Kentucky voters: President Trump.
The Senate majority leader’s insistence that he will coordinate Trump’s impeachment trial with the White House — and that he has no intention of being impartial — has provoked howls of protest from Democrats. On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused McConnell of orchestrating a “coverup” of Trump’s actions.
It has also prompted speculation that he could jeopardize his slender majority by exposing Republicans in swing or Democratic-leaning states to accusations that they went along with a rigged process running counter to the Constitution.
But here in Kentucky, it just looks like savvy politics.
The 77-year-old is expected to face a vigorous challenge in November from a decorated Marine fighter pilot with a record of big-dollar fundraising. Yet McConnell has shown an unerring instinct for self-preservation across six Senate terms and a record stint as Republican leader.