Mitch McConnell is facing his toughest Senate race since first being elected in 1985, trailing Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes 49 to 46 in the polls after easily defeating his Tea Party opponent Matt Bevin in the primary race. Now he is being abandoned by leaders in the state Republican party as well.
Barbara Knott, a member of the Daviess county party leadership team resigned on July 10 saying that she could not support McConnell in his bid for reelection.
“I have resigned from the executive committee of the Republican Party because I will not support Mitch McConnell,” Knott, chair of the Owensboro Tea Party, told radio station WFPL in a telephone interview.
Knott said that she will support other Republicans in the November elections but that when it comes to McConnell she is “just fed up.”
Knott is not alone, other Tea Party Republicans across Kentucky have become disaffected with the Republican Minority Leader as well since the primary two months ago.
After the primary in May, McConnell called on the party to unite behind him saying, “A tough race is behind us. It’s time to unite. Know your fight is my fight.” The Tea Party faction does not seem to agree that he is fighting their fight however.
Among their criticisms of the Senator is the support he gave to Thad Cochran in his primary battle against Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi primary run-off.
“There are an awful lot of people that are not happy with McConnell at all over that,” said United Kentucky Tea Party spokesman Scott Hofstra. “We’re going to see a lot of our folks either not vote for senator, they’ll vote for the down ticket races. They may go for the libertarian, but I don’t see them voting for McConnell or for Grimes.”
That sort of party division could easily lead to the loss of the seat by Republicans if third party candidates siphon votes away from McConnell it could become the deciding factor that puts Lundergan Grimes over the top. If the Senate Minority Leader loses his seat it does not bode well for the chances of Republicans gaining control of the Senate.
Not all Republicans see the division as a problem. Scott Jennings a former campaign aide to the Senator who now runs the super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, says that he does not think that the divisions within the party are serious enough to allow a third party candidate to have a significant impact on the outcome of the election.
Jennings said that he thinks that conservatives are aware of the importance of reelecting McConnell so that he can help in the struggle to take the country in a different direction.
“Ultimately, this is a national race and a vote for Grimes has the impact of empowering the agenda of Barack Obama and Harry Reid. Republicans and conservative Democrats and independents don’t approve of that agenda,” he said.