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McConnell facing unprecedented challenge as Bevin enters race

McConnell facing unprecedented challenge as Bevin enters race

by Joe Arnold


Posted on July 23, 2013 at 10:42 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 23 at 10:53 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) opened his 2014 campaign headquarters in February, 2013, earlier than in any of his previous five Senate campaigns, he explained to supporters that he had a huge target on his back.
"The reason you're here today is because they want to take me out," McConnell told the gathering.

July, 2013 has proven that McConnell's legendary campaign instincts were never more accurately attuned.

On July 1, Democrat Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced her intention to challenge McConnell and on Wednesday, July 24, wealthy investment adviser Matt Bevin plans to announce his bid to upset McConnell in the Republican primary.

While Grimes contends that McConnell is an "obstructionist" in Washington, Bevin's campaign argues that McConnell has not obstructed "big government" enough on issues such as bailouts, new government spending and energy mandates.

Backed by promises of support from several national conservative groups and a coalition of Kentucky tea party organizations, Bevin's candidacy appears to present the most significant primary election threat McConnell has ever faced.

The smallest percentage of a senate primary vote McConnell ever received was in his first campaign.  In 1984, McConnell garnered 79 percent of the Republican primary vote while three other candidates split the difference.

In 2008, truck driver Daniel Essek - a Ron Paul devotee - received nearly 14 percent of the Republican primary vote.

McConnell, the architect of the modern Republican party in Kentucky, saw his influence tested when his endorsed candidate in the 2010 Republican Senate Primary, Trey Grayson, lost to the tea party-fueled campaign of Rand Paul. 

Since then, Paul and McConnell have forged an alliance and both Paul and two national tea party groups have endorsed McConnell in the 2014 race.

Even before Bevin's entry, the McConnell-Grimes contest was already sparking more than $500,000 in Super PAC advertising and volleys from both candidates and national party organizations.

The Bevin candidacy has only intensified McConnell's defense of his nearly thirty-year hold on the Senate seat. Campaign manager Jesse Benton pledged Tuesday that Team Mitch will make sure that the public knows "who Matt Bevin really is."

After a story on the conservative BreitBart.com website on Tuesday raised questions about the tax liabilities and government grants at Bevin's family-owned Connecticut bell factory, Bevin himself blasted McConnell.

"Kentuckians deserve a conservative Leader in the senate instead of one who slings mud and misleads the public," Bevin said in a statement one day before announcing his candidacy. "It's sad really that a 30 year senator can't run on his record, but has to lie about mine."