McConnell Basks in Win, Welcomes Conservatives Back

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his wife Elaine Chao wave to supporters after a victory celebration following McConnell's victory in the state Republican primary May 20, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. McConnell defeated Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin in today's primary and will likely face a close race in the fall against Democratic candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes. 
National Journal
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Michael Catalin
May 21, 2014, 4:20 p.m.

A day after dis­patch­ing his tea-party op­pon­ent in Ken­tucky, Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell took something of a vic­tory lap.

Back at the Cap­it­ol after de­feat­ing Louis­ville busi­ness­man Matt Bev­in in Tues­day’s primary by 24 points des­pite Bev­in’s strong sup­port from tea-party groups, Mc­Con­nell did not bring up his earli­er pre­dic­tion that es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans would “crush” tea-party can­did­ates.

But, he did point out that con­ser­vat­ive groups spent heav­ily against him — fu­tilely.

“Shortly after the polls closed last night, I was en­dorsed by the Madis­on Pro­ject, the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund, Freedom­Works, and Er­ick Er­ick­son down at Red State,” Mc­Con­nell said. “Col­lect­ively this group spent about a mil­lion dol­lars against me in the primary but they all got on board last night.”

Call­ing for con­ser­vat­ive unity, Mc­Con­nell said Re­pub­lic­ans need to pick can­did­ates who can win in Novem­ber.

“I think what you see all across the coun­try this year is two things,” Mc­Con­nell said. “Num­ber one, we want to nom­in­ate can­did­ates who can ac­tu­ally win in Novem­ber. And num­ber two, every­body wants to win. And even if we had some back and forth dur­ing the primar­ies I think what you’re gonna see is a very uni­fied right-of-cen­ter bloc, with highly cred­ible can­did­ates go­ing in­to the Novem­ber elec­tion all across Amer­ica.”

His com­ments came after voters in Idaho and Geor­gia de­feated es­tab­lish­ment-al­ler­gic can­did­ates on Tues­day and amid a broad­er de­bate with­in the GOP about which can­did­ates can best win elec­tions.

The next skir­mish in that battle will be the June 3 primary between Mis­sis­sippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel and Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Thad Co­chran. The Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund has backed McDaniel while na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans are be­hind Co­chran.

The lar­ger ques­tion is wheth­er Re­pub­lic­ans can cap­ture the six seats they’ll need to gain the ma­jor­ity. Mc­Con­nell sounds op­tim­ist­ic about that. Asked why the tea-party-en­dorsed can­did­ates have not won, Mc­Con­nell re­fo­cused on the big­ger elect­or­al pic­ture.

“The goal here is to win in Novem­ber. And to do that you have to have nom­in­ees who can ap­peal to a broad audi­ence in most states. And so the fact that we’re hav­ing primar­ies it­self is not troub­ling provided the ul­ti­mate can­did­ate can ac­tu­ally win. I think the dif­fer­ence this time is we’re in the pro­cess of nom­in­at­ing, I hope, I be­lieve in every one of these con­tested primar­ies the most elect­able nom­in­ee re­gard­less of who may have sup­por­ted whom dur­ing the primary pro­cess,” he said.

As to wheth­er there are any linger­ing re­crim­in­a­tions between the minor­ity lead­er and the out­side groups that the oth­er day op­posed him while today sup­port­ing him, Mc­Con­nell did not say.

“I’m happy to have them on board,” he said.