Sen. Mitch McConnell was all smiles today: Not only because of his Republican primary victory in Kentucky, but because of a string of about-face endorsements from conservative groups intent on destroying him.
“I’m happy to have them on board,” McConnell said dryly, standing just off the floor of the Senate, where he hopes to become majority leader in November if Republicans pick up six seats and control of the Senate.
He has a tough race on his hands for the next six months. But at least he’s back to fighting a Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, rather than battling a GOP civil war that has consumed his party in the last two election cycles.
“What you see all across the country this year is two things,” McConnell said. “No. 1, we want to nominate candidates who can actually win in November. And No. 2, everybody wants to win.”
He ticked through a list of newfound supporters, who rushed to his side after trouncing his primary opponent, including: the Madison Project, which had called him the “Debt Man” for his votes to raise the debt ceiling; the Senate Conservatives Fund, which branded him a “bully” for his stance against outside groups; FreedomWorks, which tagged him as a “workhorse” for special interests; and Erick Erickson of the Redstate blog, who once called him, an “appropriator before a Republican.”
“Collectively, this group spent about $1 million against me in the primary,” McConnell said. “But they all got on board last night.”
Not only did they get on board, they fell into line. And fast.
After several rocky election cycles, the Republican establishment and tea party groups are taking steps to present a unified front in their quest to win control of the Senate in the fall. It’s a fragile alliance with an uncertain outcome, but the party is off to a strong start by kicking fringe candidates to the curb and electing GOP nominees who appear to stand the best chance of being elected.
“Even if we had some back-and-forth during the primaries, I think what you’re going to see is a very unified right-of-center block, with highly credible candidates going into the November election all across America,” McConnell said. “It’s not always the case in the last two cycles, but I think it’s clearly the case this time.”