I covered Amy McGrath’s visit to Ashland and Greenup County on Wednesday and a couple things popped out at me about McGrath and her campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Let me start this by saying I am not endorsing either candidate, it’s not something we do here at The Daily Independent, and I’m not going to start. In fact, I’m not even going to talk about politics or political positions.

The first thing that struck me was the difference in the visits. I’ve covered McConnell’s last two stops in Ashland (I believe they are his last two stops in northeastern Kentucky … at least that were open to media.)  Both times, once at King’s Daughters Medical Center and once at the Ashland Police Department, it was very scripted and there was a list of who was coming.

I’m used to a list of what media is coming; I’ve covered state races, Congressmen, Senators and even Vice Presidential candidates, but these two visits also featured a list of attendees.

Some of this may be due to COVID-19, so I asked around the office about the last time McConnell did a meet-and-greet in the region, and no one was certain, but everyone was pretty sure it’s been at least three years.  

For me, this drew parallels to 2014 and Eric Cantor. Cantor was the first sitting House majority leader to lose a primary. I was living in Virginia at the time (not in Cantor’s district) so his upset was all over the news.

Cantor didn’t lose the election because the voters didn’t agree with him; Cantor lost the election because voters felt he lost touch with them. They felt he cared more about Washington, D.C., than his voters. Voters said even though his district was only an hour or so outside the beltway, they never saw Cantor. On Wednesday, here in northeastern Kentucky, I heard voters comment about not seeing McConnell.

The second, and more important, thing was McGrath herself.

I was listening to McGrath and thinking to myself, “Who is this?”

This wasn’t the same McGrath I’ve seen in campaign ads. There was passion, there was drive, and there was emotion behind her words, unlike in so many of her campaign ads.

Again, I’m not talking about her policies or her stances, I’m talking about the way the words were spoken and delivered. To me, McGrath has been like a room-temperature bowl of oatmeal; there is nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t do anything to inspire me to want it.

But on Wednesday, she delivered her speech with passion and determination. She spoke in a way to inspire voters and in a way that could make people campaign for her. It wasn’t about what she was saying but how she was saying it.

She’s trailing McConnell in the polls, but according to some recent polls, she’s gaining on him. She’s still got a way to go.

Judging by Wednesday, her best chance to win is by being seen and being heard in person.

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