At GOP dinner, Stivers warns potential McConnell challengers: don't run, you'll lose

06/15/2013 06:20 PM

Republican leaders reaffirmed their support of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election bid on Saturday as state Senate President Robert Stivers directly confronted any potential primary opponent to McConnell.

“If you’re thinking about taking him on in a primary, don’t. You can’t win,” Stivers told the state Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner crowd that included businessman Matt Bevin — who has been entertaining overtures by some tea party groups to take on McConnell – and activist David Adams, who has been among the most vocal critics of McConnell.

Bevin told Pure Politics on his way into the fundraiser dinner at the Lexington Center that he didn’t have anything to announce.

McConnell, meanwhile, stuck to his early campaign theme of using President Barack Obama as a foil in a speech that closely followed the script of his standard Lincoln Day Dinner address that he has given in many counties in recent months.

And he didn’t address two of the biggest issues that dominated Washington last week: potential immigration reform measures and controversy over the National Security Agency’s programs that secretly tracked phone and Internet data of Americans. McConnell also declined to speak to reporters before or after the event.

But McConnell offered plenty of red meat to the GOP faithful, saying that the Democrats in Washington were taking America down the wrong path. “These people need to be stopped,” McConnell said.

He criticized Obama: “This is a very divisive president.”

He criticized the Environmental Protection Agency: “Regulations are creating a depression in Appalachia.”

And he made a pledge to the GOP faithful that he would return to Washington, D.C., for a sixth term in 2014 “to be Barack Obama’s worst nightmare for the last two years” of the president’s term.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington served as one of the hosts because the dinner was held in the heart of the 6th Congressional District that he represents. Barr was the only one of the speakers who mentioned the nation’s debt, saying it remains the biggest problem facing the nation. But he also embraced McConnell’s theme of describing the Obama administration as “arrogant” – and even took it to a new level.

“Washington is more arrogant and out of touch than ever before,” Barr said. “This is about a cancer that has infected the executive branch.”

He said the IRS targeting of tea party groups and the questions over the handling of security of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi are “the natural consequences of our ever-expanding government that has literally grown out of control.”

“The IRS scandal points to the need for tax reform,” he said, adding that the tax code has “10 times the number of pages as the Bible with none of the good news.”

And Agriculture Commissioner James Comer took a jab at Democrats who passed on challenging this race while continuing to stoke expectations that Comer will run for governor in 2015.

He listed what he called the “A-team of the Democratic Party,” including Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, former state auditor Crit Luallen, Attorney General Jack Conway, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and current Auditor Adam Edelen

“They all wisely made the decision not to run against you because they concluded they could not win,” Comer said to McConnell, whose table was in front of the podium. “They turned their attention to 2015 because they all think they can be elected governor. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to that bunch. But they’re not going to win that race either.”

Comer left his remarks hang there, giving way to applause and cheers.

Comer told Pure Politics later that he and other Republicans still have months to make a decision about running for governor and can afford to wait longer than the Democrats.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.