And that is without any declared opponent.
None of this is lost on Democrats, who have dreams about the man who has been so central to their nightmares: If they can find just the right person to run against McConnell, maybe this time, they can defeat one of their great political and legislative antagonists in Washington.
This may be just a dream, but not an entirely unreasonable one.
Polls suggest McConnell, 71, is not a beloved figure in the state he has represented in the Senate since 1984. One conducted in January for the Louisville Courier-Journal found twice as many people saying they plan to vote against him (34 percent) as for him (17 percent), even without knowing who else would be on the ballot.
The minority leader’s need to solidify his standing with voters at home has implications for his role in Washington. As McConnell himself often notes, he was a key figure in brokering the three biggest bipartisan deals that have been cut during the Obama years — the two-year extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts in 2010, the one that averted a government default in 2011 and the fiscal cliffhanger of 2012.
But while McConnell has been front and center in the dealmaking, he has been equally adept at stopping things from happening when he chooses. His tactical decision to force the Democratic majority to get at least 60 votes for almost anything it wants to pass out of the Senate has made him very unpopular among Democrats.
McConnell is “the very essence of what’s wrong with Washington right now,” said Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) in a recent interview with WHAS (Channel 11) in Louisville. “Kentuckians are tired of the obstruction, they are tired of the failed policies and they are looking for new leadership.”
That McConnell is regarded these days as Washington’s No. 1 obstructionist is not exactly a liability in most parts of Kentucky, a state where Obama carried only four out of 120 counties in the 2012 election.
“He’s a stone wall against his adversaries,” Nan Gorman, the mayor of Hazard, said by way of introducing the senator for a speech in her city. “Maybe we should call him Senator Stonewall McConnell.”
The mayor, by the way, is a registered Democrat, as are most voters on the rolls in Kentucky.
Yet Democrats are struggling to find anyone willing to run against him. Actress Ashley Judd took a pass. Grimes, whom most consider McConnell’s strongest potential challenger, is expected to decide soon whether to jump into the race.
In the meantime, McConnell has decided to select his own opponent, and he has chosen an easy target — the Obama administration.