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Massie backs McConnell, doubts tea party primary challenge

Massie backs McConnell, doubts tea party primary challenge

by Joe Arnold


Posted on February 5, 2013 at 8:28 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Despite backing Sen. Mitch McConnell's reelection in 2014, first-term Republican Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) is not ruling out supporting a tea party challenger, if a credible one steps forward.

Massie, however, called that scenario unlikely.

"I'm supporting the only candidate in that race right now," Massie said in a WHAS11 interview.  "No other Republicans have stepped forward to challenge (McConnell) and we don't even have a Democrat that has stepped forward, not that I would support the Democrat."

"Sen. McConnell supported me after I won my primary and since there is no primary yet in that race, I'm supporting Sen. McConnell," Massie explained.

But what if there was a tea party challenger?

"If a credible candidate stepped forward -- and I really can't see that possibility ever happening -- I would take a look at it.  Right now, (McConnell) would be the best person for Kentucky, no doubt."

Some tea party activists - with help from a liberal super PAC - are vowing to work against McConnell's reelection and have attempted to recruit Massie to run for McConnell's seat.

"There are definitely people who want me to run for that seat," Massie told WHAS11, "and I have said absolutely, positively not.  I am not running for that.  And it seems like the more I say 'positively not,'  the more they are convinced that I might do it.  But I will tell you today, I am not going to do that."

"I'm in the House of Representatives," the freshman congressman continued.  "It's a huge hot mess.  There are problems there, but I'm starting to see how I can make a difference.  I feel like I'm already starting to make a difference."

McConnell, Kentucky's longest serving senator, opened his campaign headquarters over the weekend, earlier than ever, explaining that as the Senate's top Republican, he has a target on his back.

"I'm bracing for any challenge," McConnell said on Saturday.  "I don't own this job. I have no sense of entitlement. I have to earn the respect and votes of my constituents every time, whether it's in the primary or whether it's in the general.  We're up and running well in advance and we'll be prepared for whatever comes my way."

Massie suggested that McConnell's role as Republican Leader makes it more difficult for him to adopt a tea party platform.

"We do need cooperation, especially among your own party," Massie said.  "And if you look at Sen McConnell's job, his job is not to be to the far right of the Republican conference or to the far left.  His job is to get people like Sen. Collins to agree with Sen Paul to get them to agree on something that they can pass."

"If you look at his record, no he's not tea party," Massie conceded, "but he's also not liberal.  He's somewhere in the middle."

Massie called a failed GOP primary challenge "the Democrats' dream."

"They want to see McConnell weakened in a primary so that they can beat him in the general election," Massie said.  "That is not in the interests of Kentucky. That is not in the interests of this country."