Thanks to a poll published last week, we know that Mitch McConnell, Senator from Kentucky and Senate Majority Leader, remains the least popular Senator with his constituency.
This means that of all the states in the Union, McConnell is the Senator most disliked by the very people who put him into office. Considering Senator Bernie Sanders is the most popular, believing that McConnell would be so woefully behind isn’t hard.
Of course, this requires a follow-up question: if voters in Kentucky dislike McConnell so much, why is he still in office?
This question must first and foremost begin with an observation: the two senators from Kentucky are as far apart on the Republican political spectrum as possible – McConnell, a hard-line right-winger, and Rand Paul, a maverick libertarian-lite who frequently breaks from his party lines.
While both are Republican Senators in a solidly red state, what political climate could retain Paul’s defiant politics while also keeping McConnell’s slimy partisanship in place?
After all, McConnell is the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky history, having been in office since 1985. McConnell served as the Senate Minority Leader from 2007 to 2015, at which time he became the Senate Majority Leader, a position he holds today.
In all of his races since 1985, McConnell has emerged victorious each time, even when faced against a competitive Republican primary candidate. His 2008 race was the closest yet, when the Senator defeated candidate Bruce Lunsford by just six percent.
One factor in McConnell’s favor is the strength of the deep red chair he inhabits – out of the last 56 years, Republicans have occupied the Senate seat in Kentucky. Because much of Kentucky’s local political seats are held by Democrats, voters often consider the Red Senate seats as a check on the liberal local politics.
Speaking of Democrats, Kentucky Democrats tend to be of the Blue Dog variety, standing firmly in the political center and daring not to challenge their Republican colleagues. With a lack of hometown push-back, the likes of McConnell, no matter how unpopular he may be, goes largely unchallenged.
McConnell’s long-term success, despite being generally despised by his constituency may come down, largely, to one now extinct factor – President Barack Obama. No matter how much they despised the Senate leader, McConnell served as the main opposing figure to Obama’s agenda. An agenda, by the way, that a large number of Kentucky voters opposed.
Now that Obama is out of the picture and McConnell appears as just another of Trump’s henchmen, might his seat no longer be so safe? And what better target for Democrats to focus on than his well worn seat?