Election 2014 update: Mitch McConnell says he’s the “candidate of change”

The longtime Senate veteran and potential future majority leader says he's the one you've been waiting for

By Elias Isquith

Published September 17, 2014 1:32PM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell                                                 (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Mitch McConnell (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

With the House of Representatives all but certain to remain under the Republican Party's control when the new Congress convenes in January of next year, most of the political class's attention during this year's midterm campaign has been focused on the Democratic Party's fight to maintain control of the Senate — and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's fight to still be a senator if and when they don't.

McConnell is at a strange moment in his career. While from one vantage he seems poised to achieve his dream of finally becoming Senate majority leader, the Democrats' possible relinquishing of power is coming at the same moment when McConnell is facing the toughest reelection battle of his entire career. Kentuckians hate President Obama, to be sure, but Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has worked hard to distance herself from the president while associating the veteran McConnell with all things Washington, a name Kentucky voters hate even more.

Because the race is almost in its final stretch, the period when many voters tune in for the first time and start to think about making a decision (either for a candidate or whether to vote at all), McConnell is working hard to counter his opponent's youthfulness and political innocence. He and his supporters have mainly been doing this through tying Grimes to Obama — but it sounds like the would-be majority leader may have stumbled upon a new strategy of his own.

Here's the latest big news on the coming midterm elections:

  • "If you want change, if you're unhappy with the direction of this country, the candidate of change is the guy you're looking at!" Mitch McConnell recently told a Kentucky audience at an event held by the Chamber of Commerce, according to CNN. "The only thing [voters] can do in 2014 to begin to change the direction of the country is to change the makeup of the Senate," McConnell argued, implying that since his ascension to the post would represent a change in Senate leadership, he was the change-agent of 2014. "In this country, the way you change things is at the ballot box," McConnell likes to say on the stump. "And so there's only one thing that can be done this year to begin to lead America in a different direction and it begins right here in Kentucky."
  • More proof that a basically unregulated system of campaign finance may not be good for American democracy, but it sure as hell is good for political consultants and marketers' bottom lines: With the election still weeks away, both sides, combined, have raised around $3 billion. Nearly half of it is coming just from PACs.
  • Former President Jimmy Carter's grandson, Jason, is in a competitive race to oust Georgia's GOP governor, Nathan Deal, and become the first Democratic Georgia governor since Roy Barnes. Yet although being named Jason Carter has had some major advantages in Georgia, where the former president was once governor and maintains deep roots today, the association with his grandfather has hurt Carter, too. His answer to being overly associated with Jimmy? Supporting policies that will lead to killing people — the death penalty, Israel's assault on Gaza — most vocally if the former president does not.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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