Because of his fierce resistance to Democratic priorities since the Obama administration, Mr. McConnell had become a leading target of Democratic wrath, amplified anew in recent days as he pushed through the Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett just a week before the election. It followed his decision to block President Barack Obama from putting Judge Merrick B. Garland on the court months before the election in 2016, when he said voters should decide who filled the vacancy.
Ms. McGrath, a former Marine combat pilot, assailed Mr. McConnell for focusing on exerting his power in Washington, arguing that it came at the expense of taking care of Kentuckians, and for failing to deliver a pandemic relief package before Congress left for the election.
Despite raising more than $80 million, Ms. McGrath, who lost a House election bid in 2018, trailed Mr. McConnell in polls throughout the race. Some Democrats said they believed that Charles Booker, an African-American state legislator from Louisville who lost the primary to Ms. McGrath, would have made a stronger challenger, but defeating the majority leader in a year with President Trump on the ballot was always going to be difficult.
Mr. McConnell, 78, is second only to Mr. Trump as a nemesis to Democrats. Some regard him as worse than the president, since his management of the Senate has been crucial to blocking Democratic priorities for years, and then helping Mr. Trump achieve his goals, particularly installing more than 200 new federal judges, including three on the Supreme Court.
With Washington in a period of legislative gridlock, Mr. McConnell decided to emphasize confirming conservative judges since it could be done without any votes from the Democratic minority under a series of partisan Senate rules changes since 2013. The assembly-line effort succeeded beyond Mr. McConnell’s expectations when he was able to put Justice Barrett on the court. Democrats have promised to seek retribution and potentially expand the Supreme Court should they win control of the Senate.
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