When asked about his Senate contest against Alison Grimes, Mitch McConnell simply chuckled and said, “I like a good campaign. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”
How very mob boss-like.
Don’t get me wrong—this Republican supports a McConnell win for the Senate race, if anything because shaking up leadership at the top ranks of Congress is not an antidote to partisan gridlock (despite what MSNBC may say). Additionally, Grimes’ campaign disorganization and dependence on the “throw the bums out” mentality does not bode well for a government in desperate need of discerning statesmen and stateswomen.
However, McConnell’s antics and actions these past few weeks do throw an unusual light on the psyche of one of Washington’s most powerful men. From his aggressive, coal-infused attack ads to a rather awkward relationship with fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul, the Senate Minority Leader appears to be locked in a tit-for-tat in an attempt to mitigate Tea Party insurgencies and Democratic challengers. On one hand, he is known for maintaining a hostile tone toward Obamacare, something the Tea Partiers would rejoice at if they weren’t so busy hating McConnell for some other random transgression. On the flip side, McConnell has compromised with the Democrats in the past (such as when he and Joe Biden struck a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff”) but is still tarnished as the “center” of the “disease of dysfunction” by Grimes and other Kentuckian Dems.
When someone refers to you as the vector for a disease, you really have no choice but to bring out the big guns. That’s why McConnell has gotten as personal as attacking an opponent for a resume listing on LinkedIn, has accrued a “bottomless cup of coffee” in the form of donations, and in a tactical nod to the increasingly gender-oriented aspect of lowbrow politics, has tailored his message to appeal more strongly to women who might otherwise vote for Alison Grimes. He’s also seized on the power of viral YouTube videos to attack his detractors and opponents, proving that yes, even a 71-year-old can immortalize himself alongside sneezing pandas and “Peanut Butter Jelly Time.”
Perhaps the most interesting component of McConnell’s demeanor is his comportment in Congress as a result of increased campaign pressure. Notably, McConnell is the only major Congressional leader who has maintained an “undecided” stance about Syrian intervention, acting very much like a college sophomore who realizes that his 12th Century English Literature major is on a fast track to joblessness. Analysts speculate that this unusual, low-lying version of McConnell is the result of a desire not to make Syria a campaign issue. One can only wonder what other potential clashes are being swept under the rug to focus on partisan and personal rhetoric.
Ultimately, McConnell knows he’s in for the ride of his life, even though he is likely to maintain his seat. An interesting observation will be whether he gets shaken up by his altered circumstances or remains calm and cool throughout the Kentucky race.
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