Sunday, October 04, 2020

Amy McGrath vs. Mitch McConnell: A Breakdown and a Prediction

The McConnell vs. McGrath U.S. Senate race is probably one of, if not the most watched campaign in America next to the Presidential race. The latest polls show the incumbent McConnell with a pretty hefty lead over his challenger---52% to 41%. Forecasting models show McConnell with a 96% probably of being reelected, but as everyone who follows politics will tell you, anything can happen.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is considered to be the single most "hated" politician nationally, even more so than President Trump, thanks to the media which never tires of batching him. In July, his unfavorable rating was at 47%, the highest of any senator. McConnell is usually portrayed as Machiavellian, a master manipulator, and someone who constantly impedes progress.

Well, the veteran McConnell is certainly Machiavellian and a master of the backroom deal, he is less a barrier to progress as he is someone who wants to slow down the process and examine the issue given how politicians tend over react to the latest poll and don't think things through---regardless of party.

So, what's at stake? What would change if Amy McGrath (D) should defeat McConnell?  If we look at the bigger picture first, we see that the Republicans have a commanding control of the Senate by a 53 to 45 margin (with two Independents). Mitch McConnell, by virtue of his seniority and mastery of insider politics, is the Senate Majority Leader. That means that he is the leader of the Senate Republicans. Basically, what McConnell wants McConnell gets from his fellow Republicans.

Being the Senate leader has been called the most powerful position in America's political power structure up to and including that of President in terms of raw power. However, it needs to be noted that the Speaker of the House is third in the line of succession behind the Vice President and President. In fact, the Founders originally intended that the Speaker be the primary leader of the country with the presidency being primarily a ceremonial office.

The number two position is the Senate Majority Whip, which is currently John Thune (R-SD). His primary job as "whip" is ensure Senate Republicans line up and support the Senate Majority Leader, McConnell. In the event there is a Republican President (Trump is in this case), McConnell serves as his top general as it were. Sort of an Eisenhower while the whip acts like a Omar Bradley.

So, if we have a Senate Majority leader, then we have a Senate Minority leader, which is Charles "Chuck" Schumer (D-NY). His party's Minority Whip is Richard Durbin (D-IL). Their roles mirror that of McConnell's and Thune's. As the minority, they typically oppose whatever it is the majority are trying to accomplish. In short, they are there to "impede" and promote their own---partisan---recommendations.

If there is a Democrat President and the Democrats remain a minority in the Senate, they will back whatever issues that individual is promoting while the majority Republicans will do whatever they can to oppose; the exact opposite of what's happening now. At some point a compromise is reached, but not always, especially given the divisiveness of today's politics and media bias. 

As an aside, in the House the Democrats have the majority. Therefore, they control the Speaker of the House post, which is Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  The House Majority Leader is Steny Hoyer (D-MD). The Majority Whip is James Clyburn (D-SC).  On the minority side is Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the Minority House Leader.  Steve Scalise (R-LA) serves as the Minority Whip.

So, what happens if Amy McGrath should beat McConnell? Well, besides becoming perhaps the most popular politician on the Left and being on endless talk shows for months on end, not much else.

McConnell currently sits on some choice committees, including the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senate Committee on Appropriations (where all the money is spent), Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Should McGrath win she would not, despite some misconceptions, assume McConnell's mantle as Majority Leader or any of his committee assignments. In fact, McGrath would take her seat in the Senate as a junior minority senator. She can request specific committee assignments, but her committees will be determined by the Democrat Senate Leadership based on what seats are available (as the majority party in the Senate, the GOP gets the lion's share of committee choices and chairmanships).

 In short, should Amy win, she would be at the very bottom of the Senate dung heap. While she would have great name recognition, her political clout would be nil. Even if the Democrats should take control of the Senate, she would still be at the bottom of the pile. In order to be appointed to any of the prized committees, she'll need to work her way up like everyone else has. Perhaps a victory over McConnell might help grease her ascendency somewhat, but fame is fleeting, especially in the Senate.

How realistic is the prospect that Amy McGrath will defeat the wily incumbent? Mitch McConnell's use of some pretty clever commercials (everyone in politics remembers the bloodhounds) went a long way in helping him defeat incumbent, Walter "Dee" Huddleston (D-KY). Amy McGrath is trying the same tactic with some cute cartoon-like commercials portraying McConnell as a slow moving turtle stuck in a swamp of his own making at Trump's beck and call. Cute, but that's about it.

McGrath's campaign has enjoyed a lot of funding, mostly from outside the state (about $34 million), which has brought in around $46 million dollars, with about $16 million still on hand. She'll likely get a last push infusion to do a final all out media blitz. Meanwhile, so-called "soft money" support has been coming in but not at level Amy needs to take out McConnell.  So, where is her money coming from?

The majority of her donations are coming from retirees, education, attorneys, healthcare, businesses, individuals and companies in the entertainment industry, real estate developers, media, and technology companies. Interesting, she's getting a lot (over two million) from lobbyists and single issue groups. Unions, which knee-jerk their endorsement of Democrats, have only donated a little over $53,000.

Key donors have included the University of California, Walt Disney, Harvard University, Stanford University, Microsoft, AT&T, and  Kaiser Permanente, which is a managed care consortium. Alphabet, Inc (the parent company of Google and its subsidiaries) and Democracy Engine, which bundles donations, gave her over just at $164,000.   

On the other side, McConnell has raised just under $37 million dollars and spent a little over $20 million of it, leaving about $16 million on hand; $27 million has come from out of state. Outside groups and "soft money" has been very supportive of the Senator.  For instance, his Leadership PAC has provided a bit over $5 million dollars, of which he's spent close to $4.7 million.

The majority of his direct donors has come from retirees, securities and investments, real estate firms, attorneys, and insurance companies. Some of the largest donations has come from UPS,  Votesane PAC,  NorPac (a pro-Israel political action committee), NRA, Goldman Sachs, Humana, and global investment companies  KKR & Company and  Apollo Global Management.

Donations to his Leadership PAC (which everyone in Congress has regardless of party) are principally pharmaceutical and health product manufacturers, insurance and real estate professionals again, electrical utility companies, and healthcare professionals. The major notables are Eli Lilly, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Altria Group (a manufacturer of tobacco products), LHC Group (Louisville based senior care conglomerate), and Amgen, Inc., which is a multinational biopharmaceutical company.

So what's the bottom line? Amy McGrath, despite some impressive credentials (including being a former Marine, which being former Navy, I won't hold against her) and some cutesy commercials won't win this election. She lacks the resources, financial and otherwise, to defeat a seasoned pro like McConnell.

Even if by some fluke she should win, she won't be in a position to do the things she's promised to do (or, for that matter, any of those things she is being accused of "secretly" plotting to do). Politics doesn't work like that. It's a team sport. She'll need years to build up the clout inside and outside of politics to get much of anything accomplished. 

As for McConnell, at age 78, and with a six year senatorial term, I look for this election to be his swan song. He's served longer than most, and certainly longer than anyone from Kentucky. His legacy is secure. The Kentucky GOP has some prospects to put forward, including 4th District Representative, Thomas Massie. Amy McGrath would have a tough time against the popular Massie, but a much better shot than she does against McConnell. This isn't her time.


OpenSecrets: Mitch McConnell

Vote Smart: Amy McGrath's Finances


The Economist: Forecasting the U.S. Elections

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great article. Accurate, insightful and supported with facts. I like it!