LOUISVILLE -- Democratic candidates for president were grilled Wednesday night by debate hosts on what they would do if they replaced Donald Trump in the White House. But the question of how they would potentially work with Sen. Mitch McConnell could be just as important.
Kentucky's senior senator and the U.S. Senate majority leader loomed over the first 2020 presidential debate like an 11th presence on stage, with moderators Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd asking candidates pointed, direct questions on their "plan to deal with Mitch McConnell" if he's still in office after next year's election. (McConnell also will be on the ballot in Kentucky).
With 10 candidates on stage looking for a marquee moment to separate themselves from the pack, some seized the opportunity, while others deflected. But the fixation on McConnell was evident -- and he had no complaints Thursday morning.
"Being criticized for stopping the liberal agenda and confirming conservative judges, I love it," McConnell told reporters in Washington, D.C., according to a representative for the senator.
When Maddow asked New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker whether he thought McConnell would confirm court nominees that Booker would support. Booker didn't mention the senator by name and spent much of his time talking about gun violence, which had previously been discussed, but added that the key would be getting support in the Senate and passing an "aggressive agenda that, frankly, isn't so aggressive."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked a similar question and, after also spending most of his allotted time talking about gun violence, said "about Mitch McConnell, there is a political solution." Democrats must stop "acting like the party of the elites" and reach out to voters in Republican states to convince them that they're on the same side.
Todd followed with a question for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren about how she would "deal" with McConnell if he were still in office. So does she have a plan?
"I do," Warren responded.
First of all, she said, Democrats need to focus on retaking the Senate. But if the GOP retains the majority, supporters of the Democratic Party need to keep that same energy after the election and keep pushing to "make this Congress reflect the will of the people." Her answer ended there.
For his part, McConnell told reporters Thursday he embraced the spotlight in the debate the night before.
"The things they're criticizing me for I plead guilty to," he said.