Eyes will be on McConnell as GOP tries to show unity

05/21/2010 01:58 PM

While the fall U.S. Senate race will be about Rand Paul, Saturday’s post-primary pep rally at state Republican Headquarters in Frankfort will be more about U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as he seeks to jump on the Paul bandwagon.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell

Some Paul supporters have blasted McConnell for making an unprecedented move of endorsing during a primary. He backed Trey Grayson against Paul.

“This is a major defeat for Mitch McConnell,” said Larry Forgy, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate, who is no fan of McConnell’s. “I think what it basically does is say that no one person ought to rule everything with an iron hand. I think he’ll loosen his grip some.”

Jack Richardson IV, the former Jefferson County Republican Party chairman and a member of the GOP state central committee, said he and other Republicans resented being told who, from within the party, they should support.

“They were trying to force something down our throats, and that’s why I put my foot down,” Richardson told cn|2 Politics on Tuesday night at Paul’s primary victory party Bowling Green. “And I wasn’t interested in furthering somebody else’s leadership position.”

Not all Republicans said Paul’s landslide 23-point win was an indictment of McConnell. Instead, state Rep. Jamie Comer of Tompkinsville, for instance, said most Republicans agreed with Paul’s message of cutting spending, reducing debt and putting restraints, such as term limits, on Washington lawmakers.

“This election was not a reflection on McConnell or Hal Rogers,” Comer said. Rogers, the longtime congressman from Somerset also backed Grayson. “Republicans know that a Republican is going to win in November. And they wanted to send the bestRepublican to Washington.”

McConnell and Paul have spoken since Paul’s win. And he issued a statement Tuesday night praising Paul for the campaign he ran. And most political observers have said they expect McConnell and Rogers, among others, to work for Paul to prevent the Democrats and their candidate, Jack Conway, from winning the open seat being vacated by retiring two-term senator, Jim Bunning.

Richardson warned that anything but whole-hearted support from McConnell would be a major mistake by the man who some have dubbed the godfather of the Kentucky Republican party. The first test for McConnell and the other leaders who backed Grayson will be at Saturday’s unity rally at the state GOP headquarters named after McConnell.

“They better or there won’t be a party,” Richardson said. “This is a wake-up call. This is the base, this is the core of the party. The tea party movement is, in large part, a base of the Republican Party that has risen up and said, ‘Enough is enough.”

- Ryan Alessi


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