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Mitch McConnell has been called a lot of names in his time as Senate Minority Leader — “RINO,” “bully,” “Machiavellian genius,” and “turtle,” to name a few — and on Tuesday, his re-election campaign added a new entry to the list: Hero.

That’s the central claim of McConnell’s new campaign ad, which celebrates the Republican incumbent’s efforts to save jobs in Kentucky:

The ad is a clear signal that McConnell is pivoting away from his primary battle against Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, and toward the general election. Bevin, who launched his Tea Party-backed campaign to great fanfare in July, has failed to compete with McConnell’s prodigious fundraising or to consolidate enough right-wing support to put much of a dent in the minority leader’s lead. Polls suggest that McConnell is on pace for a landslide victory in the May 20 Republican primary.

But McConnell will face a much tougher challenge from his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. For the past two weeks, Grimes’ campaign has hammered McConnell over a newspaper report quoting the senator saying that stimulating local economic development “is not my job.”

“Unlike Mitch McConnell, I listen to Kentuckians. It is the job of a U.S. senator to put hardworking Kentucky families back to work and to grow our middle class,” Grimes told The Huffington Post after McConnell’s remarks went public. “He shocked not just myself but all of Kentucky when he declared that economic development is not his job.”

McConnell has claimed that his “message got lost in translation,” and that “encouraging positive economic development and job growth is at the center of what I do every day.” His new ad appears to be a concerted effort to reinforce that explanation.

The back-and-forth over McConnell’s jobs comment is just one of many skirmishes in what has already become one of the most negative campaigns in the country. Polls show that Grimes and McConnell will enter the general election in a virtual tie in the race that could determine which party wins control of the U.S. Senate.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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