Kentucky Democratic Senate hopeful Amy McGrath struggled Wednesday to say whether she would have voted for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, changing her answer in a matter of hours after being criticized on social media.
First, during a wide-ranging interview with Louisville’s Courier-Journal, McGrath said that while she found Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, credible, she still probably would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh.
But hours later, McGrath, who announced this week her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said she had changed her mind and actually would not have supported him.
“I was asked earlier today about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and I answered based upon his qualifications to be on the Supreme Court,” McGrath tweeted. “But upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no.”
The only Democrat to support Kavanaugh’s confirmation was Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. Other red-state Democrats heavily weighed that vote, which some said cost them their seats in the 2018 midterms.
Yet Democrats in Maine are hoping to use GOP Sen. Susan Collins’s support of Kavanaugh as a handicap in her reelection effort this year.
After McGrath got into the Senate race on Tuesday, she was quickly embraced by Democrats eager to topple McConnell. In her first 24 hours as a candidate, her campaign raised more than $2.5 million, a figure that exceeds those announced by some of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates for their first 24 hours and is a record for a Democratic Senate candidate, according to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The next closest congressional candidate was former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, whose campaign said he raised $1 million on the first day of his campaign in Arizona in February.
But now McGrath must navigate how to maintain her appeal to base Democrats while not alienating conservatives in a state where Trump remains popular.
In the interview, McGrath didn’t try to distance herself from Trump.
“If President Trump has good ideas, I’ll be for them,” McGrath said. “At the same time, if I think he’s wrong I’m going to stand up to him and that’s the difference — one of the major differences — between myself and Senator McConnell.”
McGrath launched her Senate campaign with a video Tuesday that drew national attention. In it, she cast McConnell as out of touch with his Kentucky constituents and blamed him for dysfunction in Washington.
McConnell’s campaign countered by seeking to portray McGrath as too liberal for Kentucky, citing her support for a single-payer health-care system and abortion rights, among other things. And McConnell’s campaign also seized on past comments in which McGrath compared the way she felt after Donald Trump’s election in 2016 to the way she felt after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
McConnell campaign manager Kevin Golden referenced that again Wednesday in response to McGrath’s reported fundraising haul.
“The more money liberal elites from California and New York pour into the campaign of a candidate who compared President Trump’s election to 9/11, the less money Democrats will have to spend on races they can actually win,” Golden said in a statement.
The first-day haul by McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and combat pilot who narrowly lost a Kentucky congressional race last year, was first reported by NBC News and confirmed by her campaign and the DSCC.
Later Wednesday, McConnell’s campaign said it had raised $11.2 million for his reelection since 2015, including $3 million in the recently concluded quarter.
The campaign said McConnell has $7.9 million on hand.
McConnell has proved a prolific fundraiser. During his 2014 race, in which he defeated Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, he spent more than $30 million.
As of March 31, McConnell reported having $5.6 million in the bank for his 2020 race.
McGrath’s campaign said the average donation it received during the 24-hour period was $36.15.
Of the more than two dozen Democratic presidential candidates, only three announced raising more money in their first 24 hours.
Former vice president Joe Biden said he raised $6.3 million, while former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke said he took in $6.1 million and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he raised $5.9 million.