Mitch McConnell’s Re-Election Hopes Take Major Hit Amid ‘Dismal’ Polls

Mitch McConnell at the U.S. Senate building.
Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Mitch McConnell’s hopes of returning to the U.S. Senate could be taking a major hit amid “dismal” new poll numbers that appear to show voters in his home state solidly against him.

The poll from the Morning Consult showed that McConnell’s disapproval rate among voters in his native Kentucky is at 50 percent, while just 37 percent of his home state voters approve of the job he is doing. The poll was called “dismal” by the International Business Times, which noted that the low approval ratings show that McConnell may face a serious challenge for his seat in 2020.

The report cited a series of controversial stances that appear to have hurt McConnell’s approval rating, including his support of Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China, which has hurt the logging industry in Kentucky. The normally unflappable Senate Majority Leader also seemed particularly stung by opponents who dubbed him “Moscow Mitch” after McConnell blocked legislation that would protect U.S. election security, the report added.

McConnell also became a major target for the blockage of a bill to extend health benefits to 9/11 first responders. Comedian and first responder advocate Jon Stewart led a public campaign to push for the bill’s passage, identifying the Kentucky senator as a major force that had been holding it back. He is also in the spotlight after Trump’s impeachment, with McConnell publicly saying he plans to work closely with the White House toward the president’s acquittal.

Democrats in Kentucky are hopeful that they can defeat McConnell in 2020 after defeating Republican Governor Matt Bevin in November. Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who is trying to the Democratic nomination and challenge him, was confident that Democrats could continue the momentum into 2020.

“This year, it was Matt Bevin. Next year, it’ll be Mitch McConnell,” McGrath tweeted after Bevin’s defeat.

The prospect will likely be more difficult in 2020 with Trump at the top of the ticket. The president remains very popular with Kentucky voters, and a strong performance could help sweep McConnell back into office.

But McGrath’s team believes they will give him a run for his money — and to raise some significant money in the meantime. Campaign manager Mark Nickolas said he believed that McGrath had a chance to match the $80 million that former Congressman Beto O’Rourke raised in his bid to unseat Ted Cruz last year.

“I think we will not only outraise McConnell, but give Beto a run for his money,” Nickolas said.

But as the International Business Times noted, McConnell has been historically popular in his state, holding office since 1985 and normally commanding a large share of the vote. The last time he failed to draw at least 53 percent of the vote in a statewide contest was 1990, the report added.