Women Rule Podcast

McGrath: ‘You can’t drain the swamp until you get rid of Mitch McConnell’

To win in Kentucky, Amy McGrath will need to attract support from Trump voters. How? By arguing that McConnell is blocking big pieces of his agenda.

Amy McGrath

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Amy McGrath knows the image Mitch McConnell has: the steely, cold-but-effective master of the Senate. The tactician who will win at all costs, and who has quietly gone about enacting major pieces of President Donald Trump’s agenda and filling the federal bench with Trump appointees.

The problem, McGrath says, is that this is exactly backwards: The majority leader is the one preventing many of Trump’s central 2016 campaign promises from becoming reality.

“For voters, when they cast a vote for Donald Trump, he said a lot of big things,” McGrath said in an interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast. “He said, ‘We’re going to do big things on infrastructure.’ He said, ‘I’m going to take it to the pharmaceutical industries and I’m going to bring down drug prices.’ He said he was going to fix healthcare. He said all of these things, and for a lot of those things, they haven’t gotten done actually because of Mitch McConnell.”

McGrath, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to take on McConnell in the 2020 general election, knows the political reality of Kentucky. She knows that it’s possible for a Democrat to win statewide in Kentucky during the Trump era — just look at Andy Beshear’s victory over Gov. Matt Bevin earlier this month. But she also knows that in order for a Democrat to be victorious in a state where Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 30 points, they must attract a fair number of Trump supporters, too.

And so while national Democrats gnash their teeth about McConnell’s cold efficacy in supporting the Trump agenda, in Kentucky, McGrath’s challenge is, in part, convincing Trump voters that McConnell has been an obstacle to the things that attracted voters to Trump in the first place.

“A lot of the reasons you voted for Trump—‘drain the swamp’? Folks, you can’t drain the swamp until you get rid of Mitch McConnell,” McGrath said. “That’s the case I’m going to be making.”

McGrath says that if she unseats McConnell and Trump wins a second term in the White House, she can and will work with the president.

“He has actually said a few fairly bipartisan, measured things — like, hey, let’s reimport drugs across the border from Canada. Hey, let’s have Medicare renegotiate prices,” McGrath said. “Who stops all that? Mitch McConnell does, folks. Why? Because he gets the most money from big pharma than any other member of Congress, at least in the last cycle.”

McGrath, who spent more than two decades in the Marines, where she flew 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, first entered the national political fray during her 2018 congressional campaign, after a campaign ad touting her biography went viral.

Though she came up short in that election, losing to incumbent Rep. Andy Barr by just three points in a heavily Republican seat, McGrath thinks that, come 2020, she can do what no Democrat has been able to do for more than three decades: oust McConnell.

“It’s a different race, it’s a different cycle, and I’m running against somebody who is completely different,” she said. “Mitch McConnell is not well liked. Many Kentuckians feel that he has left them behind, that he is a part of the D.C. sort of swamp, the system that has left so many Kentuckians behind, that is really dysfunctional.”

If that language — evocations of “the swamp,” for instance — sounds vaguely Trumpian, that’s by design. McGrath is hoping to tap the same rich vein of unrest that propelled Trump to victory in Kentucky. It may not be what you expect to hear from a Democratic candidate, but McGrath says this isn’t complicated.

“It’s not rocket science,” she sid. “If we want some of these bipartisan things that President Trump could actually go for, you know, you’ve got to get the stopper out of it. And the stopper is Mitch McConnell.”

To hear more from Amy McGrath, listen to the full podcast here. Women Rule takes listeners backstage with female bosses for real talk on how they made it and what advice they have for women looking to lead.