Jan 28, 2013 No Comments ›› Chuck Biscuits
Excerpted from Politico: Tea party activists looking to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP primary may get some help from an unlikely source: Democrats.
Big Democratic donors, local liberal activists and a left-leaning super PAC in Kentucky are telling tea partiers that they are poised to throw financial and organizational support behind a right-wing candidate should one try to defeat the powerful GOP leader in a 2014 primary fight.
The idea: Soften up McConnell and make him vulnerable in a general election in Kentucky, where Democrats still maintain a voter registration advantage. Or better yet, in their eyes: Watch Kentucky GOP primary voters nominate the 2014 version of Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, weak candidates who may actually lose.
“We are doing a lot of reaching out to some of the tea party folks across the state,” said Keith Rouda, a field organizer with the liberal group MoveOn and the Democratic super PAC, Progress Kentucky. “What we’re finding — at least in this stage of the race — we’re finding that our interests align. It’s unusual.”
Progress Kentucky has begun circulating petitions urging Republicans to jump into the race, and Democratic donors active in Bluegrass State and national politics are privately making it clear they’re willing to help bankroll a tea party candidate. Neither the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee nor the Kentucky Democratic Party is involved in the unorthodox efforts at this point, officials said.
Sarah Durand, president of the Louisville Tea Party, said Democratic donors and activists have told her that they’d be willing to spend seven figures in a GOP primary to help a candidate willing to challenge McConnell. Durand said the challenge for tea party groups is to recruit a candidate who wouldn’t hand the seat to the Democrats, even though, she said, tea party leaders across the state are not satisfied with McConnell’s three-decade tenure in Washington.
“I guess the fear would be ending up in the Dick Lugar situation where you oust the incumbent and end up with a Democrat,” Durand said. “But I really think if Sen. McConnell can’t garner some enthusiasm within the tea party, which is going to be very difficult at this point, then he’s going to have a really tough road ahead in this election cycle.”
Behind the scenes, the wily McConnell and his veteran campaign staff are moving swiftly to snuff out any primary challenge.
McConnell’s staff has attended more than 100 tea party meetings in the state over the past two years, and the leader himself has stumped at three tea party rallies, including one with Sen. Rand Paul — the junior senator from Kentucky who was elected in 2010 on a tea party wave — in the state capital of Frankfort last August.
McConnell has held face-to-face meetings with several tea party types, including meeting Durand and her fellow activists for coffee right before the November election; her group is one that is skeptical of recruiting a primary challenger against McConnell.