Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arguably was everything President Donald Trump stood for politically long before Trump was even taken seriously as a presidential candidate.
Gallons of ink have been spilled about how he is a worse threat to democratic institutions than Trump. He has blocked any and all progressive reform, engineered a right-wing takeover of the federal courts, rewrote Senate rules to enforce GOP ideology, and did all in his power to undermine campaign finance and corruption laws. In the historical record, he is probably matched in his power and anti-democratic tendencies only by Joseph Gurney Cannon, the early 20th century House speaker who essentially ruled Congress with an iron fist.
McConnell is also one of the most toxic and despised politicians in America — even more than Trump. And some Democratic strategists now believe the key to winning in 2020 is to make the election a referendum on him.
According to the Huffington Post, a poll conducted by End Citizens United across 10 battleground states showed that anti-McConnell messaging is more effective than anti-Trump messaging. Democrats started with a 3-point advantage on the generic ballot, but among voters who were exposed to messaging about McConnell, it grew to a 12-point advantage. Trump messaging only generated a 6-point advantage.
The anti-McConnell sentiment is robust across a broad range of key groups. The Majority Leader polls just 18 percent approval among independents, and 25 percent in Obama-Trump counties.
Democrats face a difficult Senate map in 2020 — while most of the seats in play are held by the GOP, most are in safely red states. Democrats will have to net a total of four seats to win the majority, or three if they win the White House.
For his part, McConnell reportedly relishes the idea of an election nationalized about him — his campaign has eagerly embraced both the “Cocaine Mitch” and “Grim Reaper” labels — and as he seeks a seventh term in 2020, he aims to portray himself as the only thing standing in the way of Congress enacting full-bore socialism. But it is clear that huge swathes of the electorate see him as standing in the way of Congress doing anything, period.