Mitch McConnell Wasn’t Always Loved by Republicans. He Is Now.

Nick Nash, a 24-year-old “hard-line conservative” who lives in Louisville, was among the unbothered. In his view, Mr. McConnell was simply acting as the “fighter” that the Republican Party had long needed. “The way D.C. is set up now, when you’re in charge, you make the rules,” Mr. Nash said. He shrugged. “I think Harry Reid would have said the exact same thing.”

For Republicans, the Garland example meant that Mr. McConnell’s resolve to confirm Mr. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in October 2018 was not so much exceptional as it was expected. “He was not going to be bullied,” said Dawn Alvarado, 52, a occupational therapist. “And there are so many bullies.”

Many also pointed to Mr. McConnell’s role in confirming federal judges. “Who has ever been able to appoint 187 judges to the federal courts in a president’s one term?” boasted April Hunt of Danville, Ky. Her husband, Howard Hunt, the judge executive of Boyle County, chimed in approvingly: “Nobody.”

Republicans young and old spoke of these judges as the “safeguard for our future.” But young voters also praised their installment as the premise of Mr. McConnell’s growing cultural infamy.

On a recent Wednesday evening, Mr. Nash joined three other young Republicans for dinner at an Irish pub in Louisville. They laughed about how Mr. McConnell’s opponents had tried in vain to demonize him. “People” — as in “the left” and “the media” — “put these tags on him and think it’s hurting him, but it’s really only glorifying him,” said Taton Thompson, 30, who is leading the recharter of the Kentucky Young Republicans.

They reveled in their favorite nicknames for Mr. McConnell. There was “Cocaine Mitch,” given to him by a Republican, no less. “Honestly, so many high school and college students thought that was like the coolest thing ever,” said Addison Combs, 20, the chairwoman of the Bellarmine University College Republicans.

And then there was “Moscow Mitch,” popularized by Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the Senate leader blocked election-security legislation, which Mr. McConnell’s team appropriated as a beverage.

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