McConnell's wife leads start to 2014 campaign, blasts offensive tweets


by Joe Arnold

Posted on March 13, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 13 at 10:28 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Mitch McConnell's first television ad of his 2014 Senate re-election campaign cites racially charged Twitter messages against his wife as an example of political attacks against him.

McConnell's wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, appears in the 30 second commercial two weeks after Progress Kentucky, a Democratic Super PAC, apologized for the offensive tweets which said Chao's Taiwanese heritage and link to McConnell "May explain why your job moved to #China!"

"You've seen the ads attacking my husband.  As Mitch McConnell's wife, I have come to expect them," Chao says in the ad.  "Now, far left special interests are also attacking my ethnicity, even attacking Mitch's patriotism because he's married to me.  That's how low some people will stoop."

Last month, the tweets -- first reported by WFPL Radio -- were condemned by both Kentucky and national Democratic party organizations and by potential Democratic candidate Ashley Judd.

Chao, a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, served eight years as President George W. Bush's only Secretary of Labor.  She married McConnell in 1993.

"Mitch works his heart out, to protect Kentucky from Washington's bad ideas because Mitch loves Kentucky," Chao says in the ad.  "We love Kentucky.  The meanest personal attacks can never change that."

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton confirmed to WHAS11 that the television and radio ad is a "six-figure buy," meaning the campaign is spending more than $100,000 to place the ads on Louisville and Lexington television stations and targeted Internet sites.

“Running campaign commercials almost two years before an election is an unprecedented admission of fear for a sitting senator," said Dan Logsdon, the Kentucky Democratic Party  Chairman in a statement.  "I understand why he's scared: Polls were already showing him to be the least popular senator in the country before he tried to end the Violence Against Women Act."

The Super PAC attacks on Chao and McConnell's subsequent defense of her appear to offer an opportunity for McConnell to shore up support among women.  A February 13 poll conducted by Harper Polling, a Republican firm, showed McConnell tied with Judd among women voters (44% to 44%).  McConnell led overall (49% to 40%).

"The truth is, no commercial can undo his actions against America's women," Logsdon said, "and Kentuckians would prefer to see our leaders working to solve the nations problems instead of spending all their energy campaigning in non-election years."

An email headline from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee states "Vulnerable McConnell Panics."

Judd has not yet announced her candidacy, but told supporters at a private Louisville event in February that she planned to make and announce her decision by Derby Day, May 4.

An online video released by McConnell's campaign in February poked fun at the search for a viable Democratic candidate, singling out Judd's lack of a Kentucky residence and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes' penchant for self-promotion.

At the end of January, McConnell had $7.4 million in campaign cash on hand.