President Donald Trump has been very critical of Sen. Mitch McConnell
Trump won Kentucky by 30 points; McConnell's re-election won by half that
In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a reputation as a legislating pragmatist whose political instincts have made him a force in his chamber.
But back home in Kentucky – amid an escalating feud with President Donald Trump – some of his constituents are openly questioning whether their senior senator should be doing more to deliver for the commander in chief.
“He’s not supporting the President,” said Terry McCall, a Trump voter who spoke with CNN at the Kentucky State Fair. “Republicans need to get behind the President and support him. The American people voted for him, got him into office and now the Republicans and Democrats are fighting him.”
“Ditch Mitch,” his wife chimed in.
In recent weeks, relations between Trump and McConnell have soured, CNN has reported. After failing to repeal Obamacare, McConnell has been in the crosshairs of Trump’s criticism. CNN has confirmed that the two men have not spoken since a tense August 9 phone call. And, despite a long list of to-do items on the fall agenda, the White House told CNN Wednesday they didn’t expect the two men to talk again until they could do so in person – after the recess concludes early next month.
Republican voters in Kentucky say they’re watching McConnell with some concerns.
“McConnell’s supposed to get people together to vote for what the President wants and he’s not doing it,” said Henry Johnson, who also attended the fair.
They’re worried about the toll Trump and McConnell’s relationship could have on the GOP’s overall agenda.
“McConnell looks like he’s having trouble with people in his own party,” said Jim Wiley, another fair goer. “I have nothing against the guy other than right now I think they need to be at work instead of out vacationing. They took a month off. You know, when you’re not getting anything done, you need to be at work.”
McConnell and his team have deliberately tried to downplay the severity of the fallout between the majority leader and the President. At the annual Kentucky Farm Bureau’s ham breakfast Thursday morning, McConnell didn’t answer reporters’ questions about the state of his and Trump’s relationship as he walked through the fair hall. During McConnell’s prepared remarks at the breakfast, he made mostly positive comments about the Trump administration.
Politically, it’s a smart move for McConnell who will have to rely on Trump loyalists in Kentucky if he runs for re-election in 2020. Trump won the state by about 30 points in November. McConnell won his re-election in 2014 by about half that, 16 points.
A lot of Kentucky voters say that Trump’s bombastic style and his attacks against McConnell aren’t even that surprising.
“Trump’s just being true to himself. He’s done that since Day 1,” said Jessica Day, a resident of Taylorsville, Kentucky.
But not everyone is so quick to jump to Trump’s defense. Kentuckians say that while they may not be McConnell loyalists, they’re uninterested in their President blatantly attacking his natural allies in Congress.
“Stop the Twitter, OK? That social media thing is ridiculous,” said Kim Cox of Fern Creek, Kentucky. “I was taught if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”