This left-right squeeze is forcing McConnell to scrape as hard as ever to raise money and try to extend his 30-year
The squeeze also may be his salvation.
It obscures divisions among the critics who drive up McConnell's unpopularity ratings, often cited as his biggest problem. His Democratic critics can't vote in the
As for less ideological voters, McConnell hopes his role in crafting major compromises with Democrats will burnish his can-do image among Kentuckians, many of whom register as Democrats but often vote Republican in federal elections.
But some Kentuckians say McConnell's political strength in
In an interview after the coal rally in
"That changed my life here," he said, noting that groups from the left and right spend millions to attack him on television.
McConnell cited his role in "four major deals" during Obama's presidency: a 2010 extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts; a mid-2011 bid to avert a government default and seek a spending-cut mechanism; the end-of-2012 "fiscal cliff" deal; and last fall's agreement to end a
Tea party groups blast him for cutting such deals with Democrats. But, McConnell said, "If it's important for the country and there's enough grounds for agreement, I don't object to doing business with them."
On some issues, including the new health care law, McConnell fiercely opposes Obama. On others, such as immigration, McConnell fades into the background, forcing other Republicans to lead.
Back home, McConnell, who turns 72 on Thursday, visits
"He's the only one who helped me," said 70-year-old
McConnell was the undisputed king of
Bevin's intensity contrasts with McConnell's dour deadpan, and some Republicans say he's the fresh face to replace a three-decade
McConnell "crows about the fact that he's given 150 speeches on Obamacare," Bevin said. "If you're that cotton-picking powerful, really, you've given 150 speeches and didn't move the needle one iota?"
Bevin also criticized McConnell for agreeing to raise the U.S. government's borrowing limit, and dismissed those who say a default could cripple the economy. "Oh please, come on," he said. "We have zero chance of defaulting."
Bevin must contend with McConnell's higher profile, potent fundraising and opposition researchers who found that Bevin had both praised and condemned the 2008 federal bank bailout. Even some of Bevin's supporters acknowledge McConnell's years of steering federal aid to
"He's done a fantastic job for the state,"
Another Bevin complication is that Paul has endorsed McConnell, although his praise sometimes sounds lukewarm. In an interview, Paul said Obama's unpopularity will sink Democratic candidate
"I can't imagine that we would elect a Democrat from
Grimes, whose father was a well-known Democrat, easily won statewide election in 2011. She is playing it safe thus far in the
Grimes' campaign staff said she was too busy for an interview. She is raising millions of dollars, some of it from
McConnell wants to tie Grimes tightly to Obama's health law and his administration's restrictions on plants that burn coal, a struggling
Bashing the health care law "is getting a little bit old with voters," Stumbo said. Besides, he said, the law is working fairly well in
"I think the race is hers to lose," he said.
Republicans say such remarks overlook McConnell's history of battling as fiercely as he must to win elections. As retired coal worker
Most Popular Stories
- #myNYPD Twitter Campaign Backfires for NYPD
- First-time Jobless Claims Jump by 24,000
- Justin Bieber's War Shrine Pic Causes Flap
- Wellness Programs Grow More Popular With Employers
- First Lady Announces Job Site for Veterans
- Putin Says Internet Is CIA Plot
- Tesla Expanding Its California Operations
- Google, SunPower Team Up on Solar Power
- Retirement: Why $1 Million Won't Be Enough
- Boeing Flying High With Strong First Quarter