Leading up to the fiscal cliff negotiations, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly reminded President Obama about his 24-point thumping in Kentucky in a private phone call.
The conversation typifies the icy relationship between McConnell and the president—the two have rarely met, spoken or been seen in public together.
As Politico reports, the GOP leader was warning Mr. Obama early to cool on the campaigning if he wants to make progress with lawmakers.
Don Stewart, McConnell’s chief spokesman, said McConnell’s comments to Obama “were in the context of trying to find a solution” to the budget crisis. The GOP leader told the president that continuing to engage in a public-relations blitz against Republicans “could have the opposite effect of what he was trying to accomplish,” the spokesman said.
Stewart added: “This, by the way, is sound advice.”
The White House declined to comment.
Observers note that the Obama administration learned from the budget debt ceiling negotiations last year, and has decided to forgo direct talks with congressional leaders at the outset. In the aftermath of a successful re-election, Mr. Obama has taken his plan on the road to appeal directly to voters.
The piece also provides an interesting—and Ashley Judd free—look into the 2014 race.
McConnell will almost certainly be a top target for the White House and the Democratic leadership in Washington during this cycle. Several unions and pro-Democratic groups already have operatives on the ground in Kentucky looking to dig up dirt on McConnell, according to Democratic sources.
Yet this is a threat McConnell’s team is prepared for.
“It means we’re going to hang Barack Obama around the neck of every Democrat who tries to run against Sen. McConnell,” Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, told POLITICO. “He and his agenda are just very, very unpopular in this state. That is something we’re going to pin on any Democrat who wants to step up to the plate.”
While Benton and McConnell aides say the political tactics won’t interfere with the budget deal, Democrats are skeptical that the GOP leader will be able to come to the middle and reach an accord with the president.