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McConnell on GOP Gains in Kentucky: Thanks, Obama

McConnell said Kentucky's 2015 races were a referendum on Obamacare. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
McConnell said Kentucky's 2015 races were a referendum on Obamacare. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats might disagree, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks the GOP electoral wave in his home state Tuesday was about President Barack Obama.  

The Kentucky Republican told CQ Roll Call that he viewed the election returns Tuesday in his home commonwealth as a strike against the Obama administration’s agenda — particularly the Affordable Care Act.  

Term-limited Democratic Gov. Steven L. Beshear championed implementation of the health care law through a state program known as Kynect. The Obama White House on Wednesday deflected criticism about results across the nation that generally favored the GOP.  

Obama’s health care law was a major issue in the Kentucky governor’s race. Republican Matt Bevin vowed to target both the Obama law and Medicaid once in office and often cast the health overhaul as “a disaster for Kentucky taxpayers.”  

Under Kynect and the expansion of Medicaid, Kentucky has had one of the largest reductions in the rate of uninsured in the country, from 20.4 percent to under 9 percent.  

But the state will have to start sharing costs of those in the expanded Medicaid program starting in 2017.  The Associated Press reported that the state’s estimated cost for 2017 is $74 million and could swell to $363 million by 2021.  

“It was an exciting election. We had a referendum on Obama and Obamacare in the Kentucky governor’s race yesterday, and Gov.-elect Bevin carried 106 out of 120 counties, and won by nine points,” McConnell said in an exclusive interview Wednesday, a year to the day after winning his own re-election in what ended up being a lopsided race.  

The governor-elect , was McConnell’s adversary in a bitter primary contest in last year.  

“We also won most of the down-ballot races,” McConnell said. “We lost two, narrowly. The person that I defeated last year survived and the governor’s son survived, but everybody else on our side was successful and it was a very, very exciting day.”  

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who was McConnell’s 2014 general election challenger, and Democratic attorney general candidate Andy Beshear, the outgoing governor’s son, prevailed on the Democratic side.  

Overall, McConnell said he was looking forward to Bevin and the other newly elected Republicans moving ahead with a “new direction in Kentucky state government.”

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