Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader and senior U.S. Senator from Kentucky, has successfully fended off a primary challenge from Tea Party hopeful Matt Bevin. This could be a significant harbinger of things to come for the Tea Party faction of the Grand Old Party.
The last time the Tea Party rallied in Kentucky, it resulted in the primary election of Rand Paul over the Republican party’s candidate of choice at the time, Trey Grayson. Paul then went on to defeat Democrat Jack Conway in the general election, but not without a lot of “strange bedfellows” maneuvering between him and Mitch McConnell, whom he said he would never cut deals with.
Some thought that Kentucky might again buck the party line and go with Matt Bevin over McConnell, but the Bevin campaign had a few setbacks to contend with.
First of all, Bevin’s line of attack on McConnell was that he was not conservative enough, a common point with Tea Party primary challengers. He painted McConnell as “establishment” and even as cooperating with President Obama too often.
The difficulty came when Bevin was discovered as having spoke approvingly of the TARP stimulus package. McConnell’s campaign moved immediately to portray Bevin as “giving Obama a blank check” by supporting TARP, which was signed into law by George W. Bush.
Bevin fumbled for a response. A few more forced errors followed, but the final nail in the coffin came when proof surfaced that Bevin had attended a rally of pro-cockfighting supporters. He later expressed his opinion that the founding fathers were involved in cockfighting and dogfighting.
Bevin’s candidacy was pretty much finished from that point, and McConnell turned his attention to his eventual general election challenger, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. This further cemented the inevitability of his winning over Bevin, and the election day results backed up that assumption.
McConnell, like most candidates in a scrappy primary, now asks that all Kentucky Republicans, including former Bevin supporters, rally behind him to defeat “Obama’s candidate”, as he calls Grimes. He is co-opting Grimes’ call for “change” — meaning to oust McConnell — by calling for change himself, meaning to keep him in Washington, elect a majority of Republicans to the Senate, and oust Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader.
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