Story was updated at 4:30 p.m.
A day before she plans to attend a fundraiser hosted by Mitch McConnell, Michigan GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land declined to say on Monday whether she would support McConnell as GOP leader in 2015 if he wins reelection next year.
Appearing on the talk-radio program Michigan’s Big Show, Land demurred when asked directly if she would vote for him as either Senate minority or majority leader.
“I think you’re getting a little ahead here,” Land said. “First we have to run a race here in Michigan. Once we do that, obviously those things come after that. But right now, we’re just running to win here in Michigan.”
Land, the Wolverine State’s presumed GOP nominee, is attending a fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee hosted by McConnell and a coterie of other GOP senators on Tuesday. But during her interview, she repeatedly sought to disassociate herself from the Republican leader.
Asked if McConnell was supporting her campaign, Land responded, “I’m getting support from a lot of senators. I’ve got support from Senator Rand Paul, from Rubio, from Senator Rubio, from a lot of senators across this country and also from Congressfolks here in Michigan too.”
Her non-answer came days after a top official at the Senate Conservatives Fund, while not commenting directly on Land’s campaign, warned Republican candidates that participating in fundraisers with McConnell would risk blowback from conservatives. The executive director of that group, Matt Hoskins, made the comment in an interview with National Journal. The SCF and the NRSC are in a bitter conflict, after the Republican campaign committee announced it would no longer offer contracts to a consulting firm that worked for the conservative outside group.
In a statement released later on Monday, Land said: “I am appreciative of everything Senator McConnell has done in welcoming my campaign and I am staying laser focused on my race here in Michigan.”
Land emerged as the GOP’s go-to candidate in Michigan after a slew of other potential GOP contenders passed on a campaign, and after she posted a surprisingly strong fundraising report in the third quarter of this year. She will likely face Democratic Rep. Gary Peters in the state’s open-seat race to succeed retiring Sen. Carl Levin — a race Democrats are favored to win but has tightened since the disastrous Obamacare rollout.
Land’s comments appear calibrated to fend off any potential conservative challenge to her campaign. But in the same interview, she also backed off her previous calls to defund Obamacare, insisting the law be “fixed” instead of repealed.
“After you pass bills, you have to go back and do fixes,” she said. “That’s not unusual. That’s something I’ve done in the past, and that’s something we need to do here.”
Asked directly whether she no longer supported repealing Obamacare, Land responded that her previous support for defunding Obamacare “was a way to get the conversation going.”
“We’re past this now,” she said. “We need to now fix this.”
Update: An aide to the Land campaign says the candidate was referring to her support of the Upton bill in the House when she said she wanted to “fix” Obamacare.
“I supported defunding the Obamacare law when that was an option,” she wrote in a Facebook note posted earlier today. “I support repealing the Obamacare law if we can get it repealed. President Obama and Congressman Peters promised that Michiganders could keep their insurance and their promise has been broken. I support the Upton bill to fix Obamacare in the short term if that is what it takes to stop 225,000 people in Michigan from losing their insurance. Washington is broken and we need leaders who are ready to make the tough decisions.”
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