Tea Party activist and Louisville Councilwoman Marilyn Parker is endorsing Republican Senator Mitch McConnell days after complimenting his primary opponent.
The nod gives McConnell a key tea party figure, but it comes as the senator faces growing criticism from his political right on Obamacare as a prominent conservative PAC is pledging to run ads against him.
When asked Wednesday whom she was supporting in the GOP contest between McConnell and businessman Matt Bevin, Parker told WFPL she was undecided but praised the latter for bringing up good questions by entering the race.
In a surprising reversal Friday morning, however, Parker says she wanted to make sure voters knew she is backing McConnell for re-election.
“I have always supported Senator McConnell for U.S. Senate,” Parker said in a statement. “Today I am issuing a formal endorsement to clear up any doubt about my support for Senator McConnell’s conservative record, his leadership role in Washington representing Kentucky and our national interests, and his institutional knowledge for getting the right policies implemented.”
Bevin is being supported by the United Kentucky Tea Party, which represents over a dozen groups across the state.
But the endorsement from Parker—along with the former vice president of the Louisville Tea Party—is a crafty chess move that gives Team Mitch a bit of breathing room as more rank-and-file activists openly criticize his campaign. “We are thrilled to have Councilwoman Parker’s support,” says McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton. “Her proven leadership as a grassroots activist and an elected official will help to unite people in the fight against President Obama’s harmful agenda that threatens Kentucky families.”
McConnell still faces a threat from conservatives at the national level who appear to be inching towards supporting Bevin outright.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, which was founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and raised millions in 2012, is readying an ad campaign against McConnell over the internal GOP fight over de-funding President Obama’s health care law.
McConnell has been a fierce critic of Obamacare for years and is touring the state during the August recess speaking out against it. But many conservatives argue the GOP leader has not done enough to support other lawmakers efforts to take out funding for the law.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), however, said he won’t fight to stop funding for Obamacare because he doesn’t want to risk being blamed for a government shutdown.
McConnell is waving the white flag.
SCF is preparing to launch a statewide media campaign in Kentucky to expose McConnell’s record on this issue and to persuade him to lead the fight. If he changes his position, others will quickly follow.
Aides close to McConnell tell WFPL the disagreement is more tactical than ideological, adding a government shutdown plays into the Democrats and Obama administration’s hands.
A report commissioned by Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma found that shutting down the federal government would not halt implementation of Obamacare and supports McConnell’s viewpoint.
But the GOP’s right-wing remains committed to the idea including Republicans like Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who wrote this week that any lawmaker who votes for the bill with the health care law in it is “in essence, voting for Obamacare.”
That ironically squeezes McConnell on what’s been his favorite political punching bag.
“Mitch McConnell is telling people he opposes Obamacare while he refuses to oppose its funding,” says Senate Conservatives Fund executive director Matt Hoskins. “We can’t let him have it both ways.”