The Corner

Source: Team McConnell ‘Tried to Threaten’ Likely Tea-Party Opponent

Allies of Senator Mitch McConnell pushed Matt Bevin, a Kentucky businessman on the cusp of announcing he will run against McConnell in the state’s GOP primary, to stay out of the race, according to an adviser close to Bevin.

McConnell’s campaign denies the allegations.

“Mitch McConnell’s people reached out to Matt for several months through all different avenues trying to convince him not to run,” the adviser close to Bevin tells National Review Online. “They can pretend like they’re not afraid, they can call him a nuisance, but they were desperate not to have him. Because they are scared.”

“First they tried to threaten him,” the source added, “and then they tried to dangle shiny political prizes.”

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton dismissed the claim, saying that “Nobody from the McConnell campaign or office has ever had a conversation with Matt Bevin about this campaign.”

“That said, there have been a number of people in Matt’s life who approached our campaign for months, desperately trying to prevent Matt from making a serious mistake,” he added. “They were concerned that he was surrounded by a small, fringe consultant class who stand to make money from self-funded campaign and wouldn’t listen to reason.”

Bevin is expected to announce his Senate bid tomorrow.

The Bevin campaign knows they’re up against one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, but they are prepared to vigorously attack McConnell’s record.

“He’s going to need to defend his record,” says Bevin adviser Nachama Soloveichik  of McConnell. “We have binders and binders as well. Every binder they have, I’ll match them two binders.”

Benton told NRO yesterday that “we have a very, very thick, plentiful opposition-research book on this guy [Bevin] that is just full of disqualifying material.”

“[He] voted for all the bailouts,” Soloveichik says, “voted for amnesty, voted to raise the debt ceiling at least nine times. He orchestrated the boondoggle debt ceiling deal of 2011. He voted for higher taxes. He’s been one of the biggest culprits of bigger spending. He’s been a pork king. He voted for bridge to nowhere. The list goes on and on.”

Look for the Bevin campaign to highlight McConnell’s record on those issues. They will focus on McConnell’s vote for TARP in 2008, and the $41,000 he received in donations from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and those company’s employees as of 2008. They will criticize his votes for comprehensive immigration reform in 1986 and 2006 (McConnell voted against such bills in 2007 and voted against the Gang of Eight bill), arguing they show support for amnesty. And they will point out how, over the past 13 years, he has nine times voted to hike the debt ceiling.

“Mitch McConnell is the most conservative Republican leader in history, with a lifetime rating over 90 in the definitive American Conservative Union ratings and a perfect score of 100 last year,” responded Benton. “He has always championed and fought for conservative solutions, and that will never change.”

But the Bevin campaign is optimistic that their small operation can take on McConnell. “Mitch McConnell thought that he could pick Trey Grayson over Rand Paul,” Soloveichik remarks, referring to the 2010 Kentucky GOP Senate primary, “feeding Trey Grayson all of his money, all of his institutional support, all of his 20 consultants. Well, how did that turn out for him? Not very well.”

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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