FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Looking to cement an image of his well-funded Democratic challenger in the minds of voters, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell unleashed a TV ad portraying Amy McGrath as too liberal for Kentucky on abortion and border security and playing up her support for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
The Senate majority leader's ad, released statewide Tuesday, assails what McConnell calls McGrath's “far-left record," dubbing her as “extreme Amy McGrath" in a possible preview of the fall campaign.
McGrath’s campaign said the new attack ad shows that McConnell is “running scared.”
Tearing down the opposition is a go-to strategy for McConnell, a bare-knuckled campaigner seeking his seventh Senate term. And it reprises GOP attacks against McGrath, a former Marine combat pilot, during her unsuccessful attempt to oust a Republican congressman in 2018.
The ad comes about a month before the state's primary, where McGrath is seen as the front-runner in a crowded Democratic field. The primary was delayed until June 23 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The ad is the latest salvo in what's expected to be a big-spending, hard-hitting campaign.
McGrath raised substantially more campaign cash than McConnell in the first three months of 2020. Soon after McConnell’s campaign reported raising nearly $7.5 million in the quarter, McGrath announced she took in $12.8 million during the same period. As the top-ranking Republican in Congress, McConnell is a lightning rod for Democrats across the nation.
McConnell's new ad says McGrath constantly attacks him because she “doesn’t want you to find out about her far-left record." The commercial notes that McGrath supported Trump's impeachment, opposes the president's border wall and supports abortion rights.
It shows McGrath referring to the border wall along the nation's Southern boundary as “absolutely stupid." Later in the same TV interview, McGrath said the border wall was a “ninth-century solution to a 21st-century problem."
The ad also resurfaces comments that Republicans pinned on McGrath at an out-of-state fundraiser during her failed House campaign. “I am further left, I am more progressive than anybody in the state of Kentucky," McGrath says in the recording obtained by her GOP foes.
Efforts to portray her as ultra-liberal are ridiculous, McGrath has said. She has claimed the audio was “doctored" and has called on McConnell's campaign to release the entire recording.
“He knows he’s turned his back on Kentucky," McGrath's campaign said Tuesday. “And all he can do now is lie about Lt. Colonel Amy McGrath to cover up 35 years of putting partisan politics and special interests ahead of Kentuckians."
McConnell's campaign manager, Kevin Golden, said McGrath “doesn’t shy away from taking the most far-left stance possible" on issues most important to Kentuckians.
“McGrath can try to erase the past, but voters will not forget how radical the real Amy McGrath is," he said in a statement.
Two of McGrath's leading Democratic primary opponents, Mike Broihier and Charles Booker, accuse McGrath of not being progressive enough on economic and health care issues.
The ad also showcases McConnell's strategy of aligning himself with Trump, who remains popular in Kentucky. McConnell plays up his efforts to put conservatives nominated by the president on the federal bench and leading the effort to defend Trump after House Democrats impeached him.
McGrath has said she would have voted to convict Trump on both impeachment counts, saying the evidence was overwhelming. McGrath said the GOP-led Senate lacked “the guts” to put a check on “out-of-control presidential power.”