Mitch McConnell doesn't have a jovial appearance — The New York Times describes the Senate Minority Leader as "dour and jowly." In a recent Politico profile, Jason Zengerle put it plainly: "Mitch McConnell has never been a beloved politician. Over the course of his career, he has been likened to everything from a warmed-over vanilla milkshake to 'a man with the natural charisma of an oyster.'" While McConnell doesn't seem to mind these characterizations — Zengerle asserts that he "relishes" playing the villain — he may now be getting the public opinion makeover some think he needs, just in time for the midterms. McConnell can thank his own campaign for releasing a two-minute video of him wordlessly smiling last week.
The video, comprised of b-roll footage meant to be used by friendly super PACs, was immediately snatched by one of his primary opponents, Matt Bevin. Bevin's campaign subtitled the video with statements like "I hate those tea party conservatives." As The Wire's Philip Bump pointed out last Thursday, it wasn't that funny.
But after Bevin's attempt, the meme took off. The Daily Show's Jon Stewart urged viewers to set McConnell's video to music, arguing that any tune makes it funny. He was right.
Here's McConnell grooving to "Pony" by Ginuwine.
And here he is as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (playing off the popular idea that he looks like a turtle):
And here he is grinning to Lionel Ritchie's "Hello."
The meme reached its natural conclusion on Friday, when a user uploaded the McConnell footage set to Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble," punctuated by goat screams.
McConnell's campaign smartly embraced the joke, giving supporters a chance to vote for their favorite parody video on the campaign website. (The campaign created their own videos, including a Full House appearance by "Uncle Mitchy.")
McConnell probably doesn't need the help for his upcoming primary — he's 40 points ahead of Bevin in the polls and unlikely to lose to Alison Lundergan Grimes. But #McConnelling may finally help him shake that "dour" reputation. McConnell's "bone-chilling" stare now communicates something else entirely.