Kevin McCarthy was weeks away from the biggest election of his life when he pulled up to Don’s Machine Shop in Pennsylvania. It was the sort of place campaign consultants crave, a factory with 35 workers founded in 1981 in a one-car garage with a milling machine and a lathe. The business has since grown to 100,000 square feet. Not far from Joe Biden’s birthplace in Scranton, it made the perfect setting to attack Democrats for ruining America.
Tanned and dressed in a blue suit, the California Republican, who is likely to be the next speaker of the House, stepped out beneath an American flag. He shook hands with workers and kids, a woman on crutches, a man wearing a Trump hat. He was not rushed. A naturalness lifted off him, an ingratiating sense that after he was done, he might stroll over to the local VFW hall, have a beer and reminisce about high school sports or whose sister just got married.
McCarthy was there to inspire on that September day. But — as sometimes happens with the congressman — a phrase in his speech lacked the poetry he was reaching for: “The electric cord of liberty still sparks in our hearts.”