McConnell and other conservatives urge GOP vote at rally while Bevin declines to say whether he'll pull lever for primary foe

10/29/2014 11:45 PM

A pair of high-profile conservatives framed Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign as the country’s most pivotal midterm race, saying his reelection would be a harbinger of change in President Barack Obama’s final years in office.

But at least one person in the audience, the man McConnell bested in a bruising May primary, would not say whether he plans to vote for the five-term incumbent after urging about 325 attendees at the Restore America Rally in Jeffersontown to hit the polls on Tuesday.

McConnell appeared alongside Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, and one-time California U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina as his race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes nears the finish line. The Senate’s Republican leader covered no new ground in his eight-minute speech, again touting his clout in Congress as well as possibly becoming the first Kentucky senator as majority leader since Alben Barkley.

Republicans would need to gain six seats in the midterm election to wrestle control of the Senate from Democrats, and McConnell took a veiled shot at his rival party’s attempts to boost the election chances of his opponent. Both the Senate Majority PAC and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have aired ads against McConnell in the campaign’s closing weeks.

“These days if you get to be leader of one of the parties in the Senate, you get targeted by the other side, and I can tell you proudly tonight there’s nobody running in America this year the liberals want to beat more than the guy you’re looking at, and I’m proud of my enemies,” McConnell said.

Jindal, who addressed the crowd last, tied McConnell’s reelection and potential ascent to majority leader to a referendum on President Barack Obama Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

“We can’t afford two more years of Harry Reid as majority leader,” Jindal said. “We can’t afford two more years of President Obama being able to pursue his extremely liberal ideology.

Jindal also spoke at length about his views for America and focused much of his speech on religious freedom, a message he has taken to other states like Iowa, an early primary state key in presidential elections.

“I wish the president of the United States had learned this at Harvard Law,” Jindal said. “Religious liberty is this important: The United States of America did not create religious liberty, religious liberty created the United States of America. It is the reason we’re here today.”

While Jindal’s appearance may have helped McConnell’s efforts to galvanize conservative voters, it also provided fodder for the Grimes campaign, which noted his previous support for a Social Security privatization plan while serving as a congressman in 2005.

McConnell has said he he wants to preserve and protect Social Security, but the Grimes campaign contends those statements run counter to remarks he made at a recent Louisville Rotary Club# meeting, during which he recounted his support for President George W. Bush’s 2005 Social Security privatization plan for workers younger than 55.

“At a time when McConnell’s sinking campaign is taking on water for his ill-timed admission he wants to privatize Social Security, bringing in the House champion of privatization borders on political suicide,” Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said in a statement. “McConnell’s record shows privatizing Social Security will be a top priority if re-elected, and he needs to come clean with the voters of Kentucky regarding his true belief that ‘saving’ Social Security is achieved by privatizing it.”

Wednesday’s rally also marked a rare appearance by both McConnell and his opponent in the GOP primary, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. While every speaker urged the audience to vote for McConnell, Bevin simply told them to vote Republican.

He came close to backing his primary opponent’s reelection bid when he told attendees, “If any of you are thinking in any way, shape or form that there’s anything offered by Alison Grimes or anyone else on the Democratic ticket right now, please think again.”

When approached by reporters after the event, Bevin declined to say whether he plans to vote for McConnell, only that he will cast a ballot on Tuesday.

“I will absolutely be voting,” he said. “I mean, I vote every single time, and this is what I’m encouraging people to do is they need to turn out and vote. I’ve got to hop. I’ve got to catch some people, but the bottom line is people need to get out and vote. They’ve got clear choices to make, and they need to go in and make the choice that they think is best.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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