When the going gets tough, the tough turn to their wives.
And if you’re U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, and your wife happens to be the indefatigable Elaine Chao, the former Labor Secretary and outspoken critic of the Obama administration, it sure can’t hurt.
Chao is taking a front and center role in her 72-year-old husband’s tough re-election campaign as the veteran Kentucky lawmaker takes on Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the 35-year-old Kentucky secretary of state, The New York Times
"Those who have encountered [Elaine] Chao describe her as an unapologetically ambitious operator with an expansive network, a short fuse, and a seemingly inexhaustible drive to get to the top and stay there," the Times’ Jason Horowitz writes.
One of McConnell’s top advisers, ex-chief of staff Josh Holmes, said Chao, 61, will be a good counterbalance if Grimes tries to portray the incumbent as out of touch on women’s issues.
"Obviously we have a pretty strong firsthand testimonial from somebody who can speak to how untrue that is," Holmes tells the Times.
"She is someone who I say is really great for Sen. McConnell and needs to be out there really all the time," Kentucky’s junior senator and fellow Republican Rand Paul tells the Times.
"Tiger Wife!" lawyer Stuart Bloch declares when asked to describe Chao, who was the first Chinese American to serve in a U.S. president's Cabinet and President George W. Bush’s longest-serving Cabinet member.
Chao’s ethnicity was used against McConnell when a liberal group, Kentucky Progress,
tweeted: "This woman has the ear of @McConnellPress — she's his #wife. May explain why your job moved to #China!"
McConnell lambasted the group and Chao pounced in a TV ad.
"Now, far left special interests are also attacking my ethnicity, even attacking Mitch's patriotism because he's married to me. That's how low some people will stoop," she said, looking directly into the camera.
She’s also been out in front as one of President Barack Obama’s strongest critics – on the economy and Obamacare.
At the height of the battle over raising the debt ceiling, and as Obama went on a speaking tour before last summer’s government shutdown, she assailed the administration and Democrats in an interview on Newsmax TV:
"The president is engaged in politics at a time when our economy needs real leadership."
"They spend too much, tax too much, regulate too much, and that is why our economy is coming out so slowly from the recession," she said.
Grimes is virtually tied with McConnell – the latest NBC poll has him leading 46 percent to 45 percent.
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