DSCC looks to paint McConnell as obstructionist-in-chief, but will that work with voters?

05/23/2013 02:14 PM

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is trying to feed a narrative that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is obstructionist-in-chief after this week’s back-and-forth on the U.S. Senate floor over judicial nominations.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell criticized Senate Democratic leaders for selectively taking up judicial nominees. He called it a “manufactured crisis” and part of a “culture of intimidation” extending from the White House. For instance, McConnell said, while Democrats moved to confirm a federal judge for the District of Columbia, a Wyoming nominee supported by both of that state’s Republican senators has been in confirmation limbo for months.

Then, minutes after that speech, McConnell objected to an offer by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, for an immediate vote for the confirmation of the same Wyoming judge.

Seeking to soften up McConnell, national Democrats are looking to hit him on the type of procedural obstructionism that is ever-prevalent in Washington and particularly the Senate.

“Mitch McConnell is only focused on obstructionism and defending the status quo in Washington, so it’s no wonder he is the most unpopular Senator in the country,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, first told Pure Politics. “By objecting to move forward on even his own priorities, McConnell has reached a new low as the most extreme purveyor of obstruction and partisanship in Washington. Kentuckians deserve a Senator who is fighting for solutions, not fighting to score political points and obstruct progress.”

Recent poll numbers show that McConnell has work to do with voters as twice as many Kentucky voters said they would definitely vote against him than those who would vote for him. And many potential Democratic candidates, such as Alison Lundergan Grimes and environmental lawyer Tom FitzGerald, have sought to describe McConnell as a poster-senator for gridlock in Washington.

But that could be a tough sell in the election. Voters normally don’t see the issues in Washington coming from one side only, said Al Cross, Courier-Journal political columnist and director of the Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues at the University of Kentucky School of Journalism.

“Voters feel that both sides are to blame for gridlock,” Cross said. “And once they feel that way about it, it is hard to convince them otherwise.”

And Cross said that procedural issues that happen on the Senate floor are normally too “down in the weeds” for the majority of voters.

But Barasky of the DSCC said McConnell’s focus on “obstructionism” and objecting to move forward on even his own party’s priorities is directly in line with what makes him so unpopular to voters in Kentucky.

When contacted for a response, McConnell’s office sent the full transcript of the senator’s floor speech from Wednesday.

CLARIFICATION: The post was updated to reflect that the poll numbers from the Courier-Journal showed that in response to a question about whether they would vote for Sen. McConnell, 17 percent said they would definitely vote for him and 34 percent said they would definitely vote for someone else.


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