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Friday, December 2, 2016

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is known for savaging his opponents — and he’s already living up to his reputation.

In 2014, he faces both a tough primary challenge in Tea Partier Matt Bevin and a possibly even tougher general election challenge from Kentucky’s Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has a slight lead on him in the polls. With an estimated $50 million to spend and his career on the line, attack ads were inevitable — but they wouldn’t be McConnell-quality if they were predictable.

The first attack on Bevin is clearly designed to rob the entrepreneur of his status as a trustworthy “Kentucky conservative,” which is how the challenger has been framing himself, rather than as a “Tea Partier.”

The centerpiece of the ad “Delinquent” alleges that Bevin was late on his taxes both as a businessman and a private citizen — with a vacation house in Maine!

Paying taxes is something every conservative hates and the thought of a rich guy avoiding his due is clearly a class-based attack on someone who is richer than you and thinks he’s above the system. This is likely designed to deflate the populist stance Bevin is taking: attacking McConnell as the ultimate D.C. insider.

But the most Machiavellian/Karl Rovian element of the ad is the branding of Matt “Bailout” Bevin, delivered with ominous music and a darkened picture of the Tea Partier.

McConnell’s “yea” vote on the TARP rescue of the banks, which is especially unpopular among GOP primary voters, has been called out by Bevin over and over and was mentioned in his first ad. If McConnell can make the “bailout” label stick to his opponent, he negates what both candidates obviously recognize as a major vulnerability.

Bevin doesn’t have a legislative record to run on. But McConnell has tried to shape what dirt he could find into a projectile that will smear his opponent and blunt further attacks.

Do you think this ad works? How do you think Bevin will respond?

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