The Campaign Spot

Mitch McConnell Still Missing a Serious Primary Challenger, Too

While I’m depressing grassroots conservatives because there’s no serious, well-funded challenge to South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham on the horizon, I might as well really bum them out by pointing out that there’s not much action going on in Kentucky, either.

Senator Mitch McConnell’s team recently announced that 64 out of the 68 Republicans in the state legislature have endorsed his reelection.

Perhaps more significantly, Senator Rand Paul is discouraging a tea-party challenge:

Sen. Rand Paul is discouraging a tea party challenge to McConnell’s reelection campaign. “No one has asked me about running, I have not had any conversation with anybody running on the Republican side,” Paul told WHAS11’s Joe Arnold, “and so I think it’s unlikely that there will be a Republican challenger.”

“And you’re right, I am supporting Senator McConnell,” Paul continued.

Two little-known figures have filed papers to run against McConnell as a Republican. One is Roger Thoney, who ran for the U.S. House and lieutenant governor in 2000, 2002, and 2003; he received 4,784 votes in his 2002 House bid, or 21 percent. The other is Joshua Pike Mather, a sculptor.

There are other names being mentioned as possibilities, but no one has pulled the trigger yet. David Adams, a tea-party activist who worked with Paul’s 2010 bid, said on MSNBC he’s not running himself, but that he’s still looking for a candidate. John Kemper, a spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party, said in late March he’s gauging support; he received more than 349,000 votes as the GOP candidate for state auditor in 2011. Matt Bevin, a Louisville businessman, was also mentioned as a possible candidate, although the talk has died down a bit in recent days.

As our Katrina Trinko noted, by reaching out to various Republican groups, McConnell “has thus far successfully prevented any challengers from emerging.” Whoever jumps in will have to go up against McConnell, all of the traditional advantages of incumbency, and about $7.3 million in cash on hand right now.

Sure, sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle, and a Ron Johnson type comes out of nowhere, and the filing deadline isn’t until January 2014. But you have to figure that almost every current conservative Republican lawmaker in Kentucky has looked at McConnell and concluded that he’s not bad enough to replace, or that a bid to beat him in the Senate primary wouldn’t succeed.


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