In an abrupt change in strategy, Sen. Mitch McConnell has decided to go after Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, the Senate Victory Fund and other conservative groups who are backing his primary challenger.
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader,
Several allies of McConnell and other Senate Republicans say the senator is now planning a two-front war: one against Grimes and the other against the fundraising groups that are supporting Bevin. McConnell’s real targets are the Senate Conservatives Fund, which announced its endorsement of Bevin on Oct. 18, Heritage Action for America, Madison Project, FreedomWorks and other outside groups.
If McConnell can crush Bevin, the thinking goes, he can expose a lack of ideological consistency in the outside groups, allowing him to separate Tea Party voters from Tea Party fundraising groups.
McConnell has fumed for about four years as he watched outside groups back primary challengers who defeated Republican incumbents then lost to Democrats, making his dream of becoming Senate Majority Leader a nightmare.
The decision by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party icon, to become the face of the government shutdown gave McConnell an opening to start pushing back. In an Oct. 11 interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, the senator made his move, abruptly departing from the dominant no-compromise message and boasting of his record of making deals with Vice President Joe Biden.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin, and the tea party supporting groups wanted a fight with McConnell, and now they’ve got it. Sen. McConnell has seen his chances to become Majority Leader destroyed by the tea party in 2010 and 2012, and the reality is that 2014 will probably be McConnell’s last chance to become Majority Leader. McConnell is 71 years old, and in 2016 Senate Republicans will be defending 24 seats to the Democrats 10. If Democrats hold on to control of the Senate in 2014, they could be in the majority for a long time.
For McConnell, this is also about payback. The Senate Conservatives Fund ran an ad against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky over the summer. Sarah Palin stuck her nose into the situation, and has been chirping about supporting McConnell’s primary challenger Matt Bevin.
The decision to fight a two front war against both his primary challenger and his fall opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes is risky. If McConnell gets damaged in the primary, it could open the door for Grimes to take his seat in the fall.
The fallout from the government shutdown continues. The mainstream media is obsessed with the healthcare.gov website, but the same conflict within the Republican Party that almost caused the nation to default is raging on. These tea party challenges to incumbent Senate Republicans are great news for Democrats, and the great irony in all of this is that Mitch McConnell opposes all forms of campaign finance regulation. McConnell favors all forms of unlimited outside campaign money, just not when it is used against him.
McConnell’s throw down with the tea party is nothing but good news for the Democrats.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association