You’ve got to wonder how many Kentucky Republicans are like Barbara Knott. She just quit the Daviess County GOP executive committee because she’s not for Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Knott heads the Tea Party in Owensboro, seat of Daviess County in conservative western Kentucky, heretofore mostly McConnell country.
Knott, who says she’s sticking by other Republicans, backed Matt Bevin, the senate minority leader’s tea party-leaning challenger, in the May 20 GOP primary. McConnell clobbered Bevin.
On May 21, a lot of Bevin-for-Senate yard signs went into trash cans, but not the big one in Knott’s yard. Her 4-by-8-foot “Retire Mitch” sign is still up. She vows it won’t come down until after election day, Nov. 4, according to Phillip Bailey, news editor at WFPL radio in Louisville.
McConnell and Bevin pledge allegiance to President Ronald Reagan. But they nuked the Gipper’s famous 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican.”
Team Mitch bashed Bevin as an “east coast con man” and all but called him a crook. Bevin slammed McConnell as “Mudslinging Mitch” and even put his daughter up to labeling McConnell a liar in a TV commercial.
Naturally, McConnell called for party unity after he won. Bevin didn’t desert to Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who wants McConnell’s job. But Bevin’s not on the Team Mitch cheerleading squad either.
Some tea party stalwarts have migrated to Mitch. Yet we won’t know if Knott represents the exception or the rule until after the votes are counted on election night.
Evidence suggests she might not be a lone mutineer. "Probably more than half of the executive committee feels like Barbara Knott does,” Bailey quoted Chris Holt, Daviess County GOP chair. “It’s about 50-50, so my job as chair is to try to bring both together. I'm not sure if Daviess County will go for McConnell or not." McConnell carried Daviess County in 2008.
In any event, few tea partiers will likely go for Grimes. But more some might hop on the David Patterson bandwagon. Patterson is the almost unknown Libertarian third-party candidate.
Patterson is no threat to Grimes. It’s impossible to believe anybody inclined to vote for the captain of Team Switch would rally to Patterson.
On the other hand, Patterson seems bound to peel off some Republicans of the Barbara Knott persuasion.
But McConnell’s larger worry has to be turnout. Who knows how many Bevinites just won’t vote in the senate race?
Either way, it’s advantage Grimes. A vote for Patterson is almost certainly a vote that would have gone to McConnell. Likewise, almost all tea party-types who opt to steer clear of the polls on election day would have otherwise cast ballots for a Republican senate candidate.
Everybody says the vote will be close. But it wouldn’t take many Bevin loyalists to jump ship for Patterson, or to go fishing on election day, to swing the race to Grimes.
All along, Team Mitch bragged that their guy would zoom ahead in the polls after the primary because the GOP would close ranks behind McConnell.
Yet Grimes has a slight lead in almost every poll. She is also raising more money than McConnell and is smashing fund-raising records, to boot.
Meanwhile, Grimes and McConnell will be the headliners on Aug. 2 at Kentucky’s annual Fancy Farm political picnic, said to be the largest such conclave of its kind in the country. The national media flocked to last year’s picnic. Doubtless, even more big-time scribes and TV talking heads will be back again.
At the 2013 picnic, Grimes got off the most memorable line of the campaign so far: “If the doctors told Sen. McConnell that he had a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it.”McConnell forced a pained smile that made him look like he might have a kidney stone.
Team Mitch probably figured they’d have the election sewn up by Fancy Farm 2014. The game plan had McConnell smoking Bevin in the primary, pulling the party together afterwards, pulling way ahead of Grimes in the post-primary polls, burying her under an avalanche of cash and all but flying on automatic pilot to a happy landing on election day.
Now on Fancy Farm eve, it looks like Team Mitch is sweating, and not just from the heat of another scorcher of a Kentucky summer.
Back in Washington, the buzzards seem to stirring from their roost, if not quite circling. GOP bigwigs blabbed to Politico about who might succeed McConnell as the top senate Republican. Naturally, the Grimes campaign fired off the Politico story in an email. The headline asks, “What if Mitch McConnell loses?”
The speculation must have Team Mitch turning up the AC to max cool and buying antiperspirant in bulk.