McConnell talks Kentucky politics on Meet the Press

05/16/2010 10:06 AM

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said on national TV Sunday that he still believes Trey Grayson would be the strongest U.S. Senate candidate in the fall but predicted the party would come back together regardless of who wins Tuesday’s GOP primary.

McConnell appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning and after discussing Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, talked some Kentucky politics with host David Gregory.

“No, I don’t know who’s going to win,” McConnell insisted to Gregory when the host pointed to Rand Paul’s double-digit lead in the polls. “I think Trey Grayson would be a stronger candidate in November, but I expect Kentucky’s going to be in a pretty Republican mood this fall, and I’m optimistic that whoever wins the primary will be the next senator from Kentucky.”

McConnell acknowledged that he will be in Washington when the Kentucky election results roll in Tuesday but will be at the state Republican headquarters on Saturday for a unity rally.

He dismissed a question from Gregory about whether this primary, in which he made the rare move of endorsing, would reflect poorly on him. (Gregory cited the Washington Post’s headline on Wednesday: “The old Kentucky reign; Who will join McConnell in the Senate? Depends on how much voters like McConnell.”)

But McConnell pointed to the February special election in Massachusetts where President Barack Obama strongly backed Democrat Martha Coakley, who lost to Republican Scott Brown. No one would suggest Obama will lose Massachusetts in the next election, McConnell said.

McConnell also recognized the power of the Tea Party movement, which has been the foundation of Paul’s campaign.

“It’s an important movement in Kentucky,” he said. “I think it’s going to really help us in November.”

On the other issues, McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said BP Oil should pay for the clean-up of the gulf as the pipe from the downed deep water platform, Horizon, continues to spew tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

But McConnell warned against raising the liability cap higher or risk preventing smaller companies from being able to drill. And he

“As horrible as this is, it’s important to remember that we get 30 percent of our oil from the Gulf,” he said. “If we shut that down, you’ll have $14 gasoline.”

And in response to questions about Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, McConnell hinted that he was more concerned about some of Kagan’s past writings and positions than her lack of experience as a judge.

Specifically, McConnell took issue with the position Kagan’s solicitor general office took to defend the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in the recent Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission case. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in that case that corporations should have the same right to contribute directly to candidates as individuals.

McConnell has long been a critic of McCain-Feingold and has described campaign contributions as freedom of speech.

But McConnell didn’t indicate that he and Republicans would block her nomination and instead repeatedly said he was looking forward to the vetting process during the confirmation hearings.

Earlier in the program, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York called Kagan “both brilliant and practical” and liked that she hasn’t been locked in the “rarified ivory tower” of the federal bench.

“I want to see how — and it’s my hope and belief — that this person will help bring the court back to earth a little bit,” Schumer told Gregory.

“She’s hardly a blank slate,” he said pointing to her many writings as a Harvard law professor and her time in the Clinton White House. “There will plenty of information about her. And this idea that she has to be a judge and has judicial writing, some of our greatest justices had no judicial  experience.”

- Ryan Alessi


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