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Popcorn in a bowl
A couple of things jump out from these remarks by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on CBS's Face the Nation:
Well, just let me say this about the primary in Kentucky. I've -- I've endured millions of dollars of attack ads that have been calling me a right-wing fanatic over the years. I think my opponents in the primary are going to have a hard time convincing Kentucky primary voters that I'm some kind of liberal. [...]

In fact, we took a poll last month to check that out, and only 2 percent of Kentuckians thought I was a liberal. So I think that's a pretty hard sell. And it's almost certainly going to fail.

McConnell isn't just acknowledging that he's facing a primary, he's acknowledging that his campaign has conducted polling designed at least in part to evaluate his vulnerability from the right. As much as he'd like to be completely dismissive of Matt Bevin's tea party-backed candidacy, it's clear that he's not.

The pollster McConnell used for that survey, which was actually conducted in August showed McConnell up by more than 40 points over his tea party challenger, is not very good, and while you'd think it would be impossible for the far-right to successfully paint Mitch McConnell as a liberal, they also managed to convince him to shut down the government for 16 days, only to turn around and label him a RINO sellout when he finally cried uncle.

Still, McConnell almost certainly would win the the primary if were held today. But it won't be held today—in fact, it won't be held for more than seven months. And it's clear that he's nervous, given the tea party's track record in red-state primaries. That's why he says things like this:

You know, I enjoy the support of the most famous Tea Party senator in America, Rand Paul. I'm supported by Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, two other Tea Party favorites who were elected in 2010. I have the support of Mike Huckabee and Bill Bennett.
Unfortunately for McConnell, Rand Paul is no longer the most famous tea party senator in America. That title would go to Ted Cruz. And even though Paul's support is important, everybody in Kentucky knows that Paul is only supporting McConnell because he thinks it will help his 2016 presidential campaign, not because he actually feels passionate about McConnell. And given that Paul's own top political operative describes their support for McConnell as "holding my nose", Mitch had better hope Bevin isn't able to put together a decent campaign—just ask former GOP Senators Bob Bennett or Richard Lugar. Nobody ever called them liberals either—until they lost to the tea party.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 02:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by My Old Kentucky Kos.

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