One thing that Democrats, Republicans and Tea Partiers all have in common is that they love to make Mitch McConnell’s life miserable.
Matt Bevin — the Sears-catalogue-handsome entrepreneur who is challenging McConnell in the upcoming GOP primary — stands on stage at the Red State Gathering bashing McConnell for being in Washington, D.C. for three decades and using earmarks as “the dirty grease” that moves bad legislation through Congress.
Organized by noted feminist and human rights activist Erick Erickson, the Gathering brings together the reddest Republicans in America to listen to Republican politicians who have paid their own way to the event bash other Republicans.
Bevin’s speech was the perfect end to a wonderful week for the senator, who discovered that not only was he neck-and-neck with his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes, but also that key Tea Party senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) would not support his primary bid.
Not long after Bevin walked off the stage, Erickson took a break to tweet this:
Romney won Kentucky by 23 pts yet KY-SEN is a tossup. Why shouldn’t McConnell retire like he made Jim Bunning do?
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 2, 2013
“If doctors told Senator McConnell he has a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it,” Grimes said, Saturday at Kentucky’s annual political rumble at Fancy Farms.
But that isn’t good enough for Dr. Frankenstein’s monsters in the Tea Party.
Since 2009, an activated, overly empowered GOP base that thinks even the idea of the government functioning would be abhorrent to the Founding Fathers has taken away Senator McConnell’s secret power that helped him grow and reign over the Kentucky Republican Party — earmarks.
Up until the Tea Party-led ban on earmarks a few years ago, McConnell played out this dichotomy across Kentucky. In Washington, he voted against a health care program for poor children. In Kentucky, he funneled money to provide innovative health services for pregnant women. In Washington, he railed against Obamacare. In Kentucky, he supported free health care and prevention programs paid for by the federal government without the hassle of a private-insurance middleman.
Earmarks, those sweet golden eggs, are so vital to the Bluegrass State’s economy that Tea Partier Rand Paul immediately flip-flopped on opposing targeting spending for Kentucky just days after he was elected, after having steamrolled over McConnell’s candidate in the GOP primary.
But McConnell doesn’t have the credibility Paul does. So the senior senator is forced to run for re-election as the goose who used to lay the golden eggs.
In December of 2012, a PPP poll found that McConnell was the least popular senator in the country, with only 37 percent of his state’s voters approving of his performance.
That was before McConnell helped negotiate the “fiscal cliff” deal that raised taxes on income over $400,000.
McConnell — like Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who is repenting for supporting immigration reform by becoming an Ann Coulter impersonator — has eagerly embraced Ted Cruz into the Senate, letting the junior senator from Texas act as a de facto minority leader.
McConnell and Cruz worked together to stop a slight background check expansion supported by most Americans, but was despised by the Tea Party. The minority also tried to block nearly every nominee the president made, except John Kerry for Secretary of State, whose nomination sailed through, with only Cruz, John Cornyn (R-TX), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) voting no.
Several of the president’s crucial nominees languished until summer, when moderates led by John McCain decided to go around McConnell and strike a deal that filled the National Labor Relations Board and led to the confirmations of the president’s nominees for Secretary of Labor, and the directors of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency. Before the summer recess began, the Senate had even confirmed the first permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms since 2006.
All of that was done over Mitch McConnell’s objections — or despite Mitch McConnell’s objections.
Which leads to the question: What is McConnell going to run on to win his primary?
Well, we know he’ll attack Bevin and Grimes. The minority leader is famous for his brutal attacks against his opponents. Earlier this year, McConnell’s aides plotted to flood the state with scantily clad images of potential opponent Ashley Judd — a tactic that Bevin promised the folks at the Red State Gathering he would not duplicate against McConnell.
But he can’t run on the jobs/earmarks he created for Kentucky or his ability to obstruct the president’s nominees.
So what will he run on?
His dealmaking, say sources close to McConnell.
“He’s the Republican leader of the United States Senate because he’s there to lead. He’s not going to back down. He’s not going to shy away from that,” said his campaign manager Jesse Benton. “He’s ready for all the attacks.”
Tea Partiers are being told by Ted Cruz that they can defund Obamacare with only 41 votes in the Senate — something that’s technically not true and just would lead to a government shutdown. The GOP base is being told that any deal that doesn’t destroy Obamacare before it can be put into effect is a failure while the chances of the president making any deal that destroys Obamacare are zero.
And McConnell wants to run on his dealmaking.
So far the greatest accomplishments of the Tea Party have been creating exactly one job — for Clarence Thomas’ wife — and stopping Republicans from taking the Senate. “Ending Mitch McConnell’s career” appears to be next on their list.
Photo: ConspiracyofHappiness via Flickr.com