Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday trying to appeal to conservative activists. He even walked out holding a rifle, getting a cheer from the crowd, before giving it to Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
McConnell is in the middle of a primary fight against businessman Matt Bevin and the CPAC crowd is one he is trying to woo, but his campaign is out today with a new radio ad attacking not only Bevin, but also declaring war on the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group working to unseat some Republican incumbents, including McConnell.
ABC News got a sneak peak of the ad, titled "Absurd," which will run for the next two weeks, and the campaign says it has an ad buy in the "upper five figures."
"Matt Bevin and out-of-state special interest groups are attacking Mitch McConnell," the narrator says. "Nothing new. But can you believe them? PolitFact, a non-partisan fact-checker, says Bevin's attacks on McConnell are quote 'absurd … the claim is not only wrong, but ridiculous…' Endquote."
The one-minute ad then mentions Bevin's resume exaggerations, first reported in The Hill last year, before going after the Senate Conservative Fund.
"Bevin's allies at the so-called Senate Conservatives Fund are also attacking," the narrator reads. "The media say their ads are quote 'misleading' and 'erroneously cited.'"
The ad then digs into fund officials, saying they "solicit money from people under the guise of advocating for conservative principles," but then spend that cash on renovating headquarters in Washington, D.C, calling it a "1.4 million dollar luxury townhouse," something the Senate Conservative Fund says is an exaggeration and they just rent office space. Buzzfeed reported last month their headquarters are located in a townhouse worth that sum.
"So the attacks on McConnell? - absurd, wrong, and ridiculous," the narrator says, before McConnell's voice comes on to approve the message.
In a statement, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore again hit the Senate Conservative Fund, saying, "Perhaps if SCF had spent less of their donor's money on their luxury town home with interior decorators, hot tub and wine room they could have better vetted candidates like Matt Bevin who lied about attending MIT, accepted government bailouts and flip-flipped on supporting TARP."
The Senate Conservative Fund is an outside grassroots group that is not affiliated with the Republican Party or its campaign committees, but is promoting conservative candidates and working to unseat some GOP incumbents. They have already put more than $1 million in the Kentucky race, backing Bevin.
The group has been hammering McConnell, coming out with radio ads and a Web ad last month that had $100,000 behind it and drew parallels between the Kentucky Republican and last year's IRS scandal, in which tea party and conservative groups were given extra scrutiny on their tax-exempt applications, saying he too is "bullying" conservatives.
Matt Hoskins, the group's executive director, said in a statement responding to the new radio ad, "Mitch McConnell is clearly in trouble in this primary or he wouldn't be attacking Matt Bevin and declaring war on conservatives."
"Mitch McConnell isn't upset because SCF rents a townhouse for office space; he's upset because we're spending money on radio and TV ads that expose his record of voting for bailouts, more debt, higher taxes, and Obamacare funding," Hoskins said. "Matt Bevin is different. He's a businessman, not a politician, and he will fight to stop the spending and debt that are bankrupting our country. Mitch McConnell has been in Washington for thirty years and it's time for a change."
Bevin's spokeswoman Rachel Semmel also responded to the radio ad saying in a statement saying, "Mitch McConnell can run from his record of supporting higher taxes and increased spending but he can't hide behind false mudslinging."
"The more Kentuckians are realizing this career politician says one thing in the Commonwealth and does something different in Washington they are flocking to conservative alternative Matt Bevin," Semmel said.
Polls still show McConnell with a wide advantage over Bevin, but whoever wins the primary will go on to face Democratic candidate Kentucky Secretary State Alison Lundergan Grimes, and those polls are much tighter with some showing Grimes leading.