MAYFIELD (Kentucky) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was greeted with a warm welcome by party members at a high profile home-state gathering on Saturday amid renewed scrutiny over his health following a recent Capitol Hill press conference where the 81 year-old legislator froze in mid-sentence.
McConnell began his speech at breakfast with the words “This is my 29th Fancy Farm and I assure you that it is not my last.” The annual picnic is traditionally the starting point of the fall campaigning season. This was McConnell’s only, albeit vague, reference to his health.
McConnell is widely considered the architect of the GOP’s rise to power, and he arrived to a standing ovation. He also promoted the candidacy for a protégé running for governor in Kentucky this year.
McConnell is a regular on the Fancy Farm stage, where he has long enjoyed jousting against Democrats. Since he abruptly left his news conference on July 26, after staring into space and stopping mid-sentence for several seconds, McConnell’s health has attracted increased attention. Standing behind him, GOP colleagues grabbed his elbows to escort him back to his desk. McConnell returned to the podium to answer questions. He said that he was fine. When asked if he could still do his job he replied, “Yeah.”
McConnell missed almost six weeks of Senate business earlier this year when he fell and hit his head at a Washington restaurant after attending a dinner. His office said that he was hospitalized for a few days and suffered a concussion. In recent weeks, his speech has become more halting. This has led to questions from some of his co-workers about his health.
He said that he intends to serve the full two-year term as Republican Leader. He was elected in January to a 2-year term and will be up for reelection after the elections of 2024. McConnell first was elected to the Senate back in 1984. He has been the Republican Leader since 2007. In 2026, he would be up for re-election.
McConnell didn’t comment on the legal issues facing former President Donald Trump at Saturday’s breakfast event, nor did he meet with reporters afterwards. In his nine minute speech. McConnell said that Democrats had “turned their backs” on rural America.
McConnell praised Daniel Cameron as well, the attorney general of the state who is running against Democratic Governor. Andy Beshear is facing off against one of the most closely watched races in America this year. McConnell stated that he met Cameron as a University of Louisville student. Cameron served as McConnell’s legal counsel.
McConnell: “I’ve been watching him for years.” “And now that you have. You’ve seen the leadership skills he has, and his ability to bring people together.”
The rift between Trump, McConnell and Kentucky’s Republican voters has been felt in Kentucky. Both men are very popular among Republican voters. The split began after McConnell publicly refuted Trump’s claim that the 2020 presidential elections were stolen. This ended an uneasy partnership which had helped conservatives to establish a majority on the Supreme Court.
McConnell is largely silent and refuses to comment on the three Trump indictments this year. Cameron’s candidacy, which was endorsed by Trump during the fiercely contested Republican primary election for governor, has brought the two together again.