Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who can’t decide if he wants to anger Kentucky’s fiscal conservatives by directly insulting them or merely by being patronizing, is already facing a significant primary challenge from the right this year. And the challenger, Matt Bevin, keeps picking up the kind of endorsements that bring the primary into sharper focus as a voter referendum on the future of the GOP establishment in Washington, D.C.
Bevin, a businessman and former Army captain, received an endorsement Wednesday from FreedomWorks, the conservative nonprofit instrumental in the success of other GOP insurgents like Senator Mike Lee (Utah).
Judging from its official statement, the group’s endorsement is as much a ringing condemnation of McConnell as it is a warm embrace for Bevin. Even though there’s no reason to suspect any tension between Bevin and his new, influential backer, it’s clear FreedomWorks has set out to reflect Kentucky voters’ disgust with McConnell’s tenure in the Senate.
“For far too long Mitch McConnell has sat on the sidelines of pivotal fights, helping the Democrats pass unprecedented surveillance powers, the TARP/Wall Street bailout, numerous tax hikes and debt ceiling increases, and Medicare Part D,” said FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe. “… Now more than ever, we need strong fiscal conservatives who will fight to cut spending on the front lines, not the sidelines. Matt Bevin is a great upgrade for Kentuckians who are serious about transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability in government.”
The support comes with a tangible benefit for the Bevin campaign: money. FreedomWorks for America, a “super PAC” that has spent more than $19 million on Congressional races since 2011, will spend who-knows-how-much money to unseat McConnell. (It’s already spent more than $1 million apiece on six separate Congressional candidates in the two short years since the PAC was first created.)
McConnell’s response to the news was predictable: FreedomWorks is just riding the Tea Party train.
“[I]nstead of standing with Kentucky conservatives, a group that used to pride itself on grassroots empowerment has endorsed a self-funding New England millionaire who takes taxpayer bailouts and falsely claims he attended MIT,” said a McConnell campaign spokeswoman.
Bevin has an uphill climb to unseat an entrenched incumbent with strong establishment support. But to get a taste of how far the McConnell camp is having to reach in order to come up with bogus ad hominem barbs in the early going, check this out.