Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath this week released a new television ad that features a supporter praising President Donald Trump and attacking her opponent, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The ad is standard fare for McGrath, who needs to court Trump supporters to defeat McConnell in a state the president is likely to win by double-digits.
But it isn’t running only in deep-red Kentucky. The ad is also appearing in the Cincinnati, Ohio, media market ― meaning a Democratic candidate is paying for a television spot praising Trump in a state where former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is spending millions of dollars to win in November.
“I worry about losing my job every day,” a man identified as John W. from Paducah, Ky., says in the ad, which the McGrath campaign spent $200,000 to air in the Cincinnati market this week. “I’m voting for President Trump again, but I cannot vote for Mitch McConnell.”
“Mitch McConnell voted for 16 trade deals and sent those jobs overseas, and that’s crap in my book,” he adds. “That’s basically stabbing the knife in my back, as well as all the other Kentuckians. Thirty-six years is long enough. If President Trump wants to drain the swamp, let’s start with Mitch McConnell.”
“I’m voting for Amy,” John W. concludes.
The Cincinnati ad market reaches into northern Kentucky, an area that Trump won in 2016 when he carried the Bluegrass State by 30 percentage points. But Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear flipped two of the largest suburban counties there in his race last year, and McGrath, who is originally from the area, has made them a priority in her race against McConnell.
Trump won Ohio by nearly 10 percentage points in 2016, but public polls show Biden with a slight lead in the state. While winning the state is not crucial to Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes, a victory there would essentially eliminate Trump’s path to victory.
Trump has spent more than $6 million on ads in Ohio and has reserved $10 million for the final weeks of the race. Biden has spent $3 million so far and reserved $4 million.
McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who narrowly lost a congressional race in 2018, launched her campaign in July 2019 to national fanfare from Democratic voters and donors eager to knock off McConnell. She is one of the top fundraisers among Democratic Senate candidates, despite the long odds she faces in the race against the six-term Kentucky Republican.
From the beginning, she has made appealing to Trump voters a core part of her strategy ― a decision that, while necessary in Kentucky, has also earned criticism from Democrats in the Bluegrass State and beyond.
McGrath kicked off her run by arguing that McConnell was the epitome of the Washington “swamp” Trump had promised to drain and the biggest roadblock to the implementation of key parts of the president’s agenda ― including his efforts to “bring back jobs” and lower prescription drug prices. That assertion drew questions from Kentucky newspapers about whether she was a “pro-Trump Democrat,” a label that was used against her during the Democratic primary this year. McGrath also said she would have voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh before changing her position amid backlash.
McGrath supported House Democrats’ impeachment of Trump in December. She was also an early endorser of Biden’s presidential campaign, backing the former vice president in January.
In recent months, she has run animated web ads that depict McConnell as a hapless “swamp turtle” who refuses to meet with Kentucky voters and draws the ire of Trump for standing in the way of his policy preferences.
McGrath’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the decision to run the ad in Ohio or about whether it is also running in other media markets across Kentucky.
McGrath trailed McConnell by 12 points, 53-41, among Kentucky voters in a September poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.
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