LEXINGTON -- Former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath brought in a whopping $2.5 million in the first day of her campaign to challenge U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to her campaign, a formidable number that could help her clear the field in a potential Democratic primary.
Mark Nickolas, McGrath's campaign manager, said the $2,501,166 in the 24 hours after the campaign's launch came from 69,188 donors with the average donation of $36.15.
McGrath had proven herself to be a prolific fundraiser during her 2018 campaign -- one reason why Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recruited her into the race -- but the number indicates she will be able to raise the money necessary to be competitive with McConnell should she make it to the general election.
McConnell, a prolific fundraiser himself, has already raised $7.9 million for the 2020 campaign, not including donations to his leadership PAC, the Bluegrass Committee. He pulled in $2.1 million in the first quarter of 2019 alone.
Money does not necessarily mean support. McGrath decision to stiff-arm local media and focus on the national cable networks drew criticisms from both Democrats and Republicans who said it indicated she was ignoring Kentucky.
"She's not talking to them (Kentuckians), she's talking to the national liberal donor set," said Billy Piper, a former McConnell chief of staff and founder of Fierce Government Relations. "She's going to try and raise as much money as possible, but she's not running a Kentucky race."
Erwin, a Democrat, defended McGrath, saying the national focus prevents McGrath from stepping on Attorney General Andy Beshear's efforts in the 2019 gubernatorial race.
"It's not a bad idea to try and fill your campaign coffers and try to rein things in until the 2019 governor's race is over," Erwin said. "That's probably the best thing for the party."
Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones said Tuesday he was still considering running despite the splash McGrath's announcement made nationally. Jones, a lawyer who has been able to launch several successful business ventures with the popularity of his radio show, thinks he appeals to a different type of voter than McGrath and thinks he would be able to win over the Trump voters necessary to defeat McConnell in 2020.
McGrath's entry into the race drew the attention of several national politicians, including President Trump.
On Tuesday night, the president tweeted his support for McConnell, saying "....Why would Kentucky ever think of giving up the most powerful position in Congress, the Senate Majority Leader, for a freshman Senator with little power in what will hopefully be the minority party. We need Mitch in the Senate to Keep America Great!!"