Politics makes strange bedfellows. That wise old adage is being proven once again in Kentucky, where some liberal activists and left-wing super PACs are telling Tea Party groups they'll support a conservative challenge against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 GOP primary.
Politico reports the goal for liberals would be to "soften up" McConnell in the primary, in hopes that he would then be vulnerable against a strong Democratic challenger in the November general election.
No big-name Democratic challengers have thrown their hats into the ring yet, with only Owensboro home-builder Ed Marksberry so far committing to the race. Rumors have been swirling regarding a potential Senate run by Kentucky-born actress Ashley Judd, but Judd recently said she is undecided about entering the race.
McConnell finds himself taking heat from the right, with some Kentucky Tea Party groups accusing the GOP incumbent of being too moderate in recent negotiations over the fiscal cliff.
And a recent Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll shows 34% of those surveyed said they would vote against McConnell in 2014, with just 17% saying they'll vote for the Louisville Republican. Forty-four percent said they were undecided.
In a new poll, nearly twice as many Kentucky voters who have made up their minds say they will vote against U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell in 2014, as opposed to those who say they will definitely support him. The poll comes as both conservative and progressive groups are mobilizing to recruit candidates to challenge McConnell.
The Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll finds 34 percent of registered voters plan to vote against McConnell while 17 percent say they would give him another six years. Forty-four percent are undecided and say they will wait to see who is running against him.
Arguing McConnell is too moderate, more than a dozen tea party groups from across the state say they are actively recruiting someone to challenge McConnell in the GOP primary and their top priority is to ultimately retire the five-term senator.
Nearly two years before he faces re-election in 2014, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has been under regular attack for his policy stances — from both conservative and progressive groups in Kentucky.
The most recent criticism is coming from McConnell’s right, as more than a dozen tea party groups have signed a letter protesting the Senate Republican leader's stances. On the other side, a group called Progress Kentucky has protested the senator a handful of times already in 2013.
Jasmine Farrier, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, says it’s natural for different groups to rally against an incumbent before an election — but it may not mean much in terms of McConnell's ability to win a sixth term.
“It would not be surprising for there to be protests, criticism and press releases daily between now and the election in 2014," Farrier said. "But that does not mean there is an actual contender who is threatening the senator’s seat either from the Republican side or from the Democratic side."
The leader of the U.S. Senate says he won’t involve himself in efforts to knock off Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is promising to stay off the campaign trail as McConnell tries to win a sixth term in Washington.
The website Politico quotes Senator Reid—a Nevada Democrat-- as saying it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for him to campaign publicly against McConnell. There is a long tradition of Senate leaders avoiding public campaigning against their counterparts, given that they have to—at least in theory—try to work together to get things done.