McConnell says he's learned lesson, won't endorse in 2011 GOP primary

01/13/2011 07:07 PM

While he said Republicans might have an “excellent” shot at retaking the governor’s office this year, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said he won’t be picking a favorite in this spring’s Republican primary.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell

“I’m going to get back to my normal approach, which is not to endorse in primaries,” McConnell said, referencing his high-profile endorsement of Trey Grayson last May, just two weeks before Rand Paul defeated Grayson in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

“I think the focus on the nation politically of the nation will be on Kentucky,” McConnell said on Thursday’s edition of Pure Politics. “I think there will be a lot of money spent here, not only by Kentuckians but by others. I think it will be viewed as a bellwether election related to the ’12 presidential election.”

First, McConnell addressed questions about whether the new voluntary ban on earmarks in Congress could hurt the chances of Kentucky getting federal funds for certain projects and programs.

McConnell was a champion of using earmarks, which members of Congress used to tag specific amounts of discretionary federal money for certain items in their home states or districts.

Key Kentucky programs and projects funded through earmarks included dams in Eastern Kentucky, chemical weapons disposal at the Blue Grass Army Depot, clean-up of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and funding for the Operation UNITE program for drug enforcement and treatment.

McConnell also answered a question about his former state director, Larry Cox, signing on as campaign chairman of Republican Todd P’Pool’s campaign for attorney general. The interview with McConnell took place before news broke that former Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert won’t run in that primary.

- Ryan Alessi

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