Republican National Convention
Tuesday, August 01, 2000

McConnell rallies troops: Keep the Senate

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PHILADELPHIA - The Republicans' ability to hold the U.S. Senate is resting largely on the back of Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

        Mr. McConnell, a Louisville Republican in his third term, chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a political organization charged with electing GOP members to the Senate.

        During the convention's opening session Monday afternoon, Mr. McConnell delivered a brief speech from the main podium, comparing this year's election to a trifecta, where a horse track bettor picks the top three finishers.

        “The true measure of victory in addition to George W. Bush winning The White House is keeping a Republican Senate and a Republican House,” he said. “But it's not going to be easy. In the Senate our entire class of 1994 is facing re-election.”

        Republicans hold a 54-46 majority in the Senate but Mr. McConnell has recently expressed concern about holding the chamber for the GOP.

        The July 18 death of Georgia Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell means it is likely that seat will be lost after a special election in November. Democrat Zell Miller, a popular former governor, is leading in the polls.

        The Republicans also face tough races in other states, including Nevada, Florida, Virginia and New York, where Democratic First Lady Hillary Clinton is running against Republican Congressman Rick Lazio.

        “We're going to elect a Republican from the U.S. Senate who is actually from New York,” Mr. McConnell said to howls and cheers.

        Mr. McConnell's committee has about $20 million in cash to spend on the fall races, said Steven Law, the committee's executive director.

        While many of the party's biggest donors are here for the convention, Mr. McConnell is not taking the opportunity to raise money.

        Instead, he is focused on what Mr. Law called “fullfillment,” which is political speak for rewarding donors by inviting them to special parties and events during the convention week.

        “It's a way to pay people back and to thank them for supporting what we do,” Mr. Law said.

        For instance, many donors were invited Monday night to a party featuring several former pro boxers, including George Foreman and Joe Frazier.

        Kentucky Republicans who have worked with Mr. McConnell on campaigns say he has the political talent to hold the Senate.

        “There isn't anybody smarter when it comes to campaigns in Kentucky or maybe in the country,” said delegate Dave Disponnett of Lawrenceburg, Ky. “He's the best, and he'll get the job done.”

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