Republican Senate candidate Matt Bevin has failed to provide Kentucky primary voters with a compelling reason to replace incumbent Mitch McConnell in next month’s election.
That’s what conservative commentator Erick Erickson said in a blog post Wednesday, sharing his doubts about the Tea Party-backed challenger’s chances.
Erickson is a Bevin supporter who has compelled readers to donate in recent months. He is also an outspoken McConnell critic who has blamed the GOP leader for—well everything.
But even he admits time is running out for Bevin.
Matt Bevin fell early to a barrage of negative attacks defining him before he could define himself. He is far down with a month to go. While he benefits from a wave of conservative grassroots support, including my own here at RedState, he has much ground to make up and little time to do it. Short of a non-stop very positive media campaign re-defining himself, Bevin is not going to win.
The voters in Kentucky may not care for Mitch McConnell. Conservative activists around the country may not care for McConnell. But Bevin has failed thus far to present a compelling, positive narrative of himself and why he should be the guy to replace Mitch McConnell. With early voting approaching, he has less than one month to do that.
Bevin announced earlier this week he had raised $1.1 million in the first quarter of the year compared to the $2.4 million McConnell generated during the same period.
Polls show McConnell leading by double-digits as Bevin begins to run consistent TV ads ahead of the May 20 election.
Other conservative activists argue it is time for Bevin take his bid to the next level as national groups that have endorsed the Louisville investor begin focusing on other primary candidates who are taking on establishment incumbents.
For instance, FreedomWorks, which has endorsed Bevin, listed eight “pivotal races” in a message to members this week but failed to mention the Kentucky primary contest. The same goes for Senate Conservatives Fund, which has also endorsed Bevin, when the group sent out an e-mail blast last Friday.
“We have always said that the Kentucky Senate race would be an uphill battle—it’s the story of David versus Goliath,” says Drew Ryun, political director of The Madison Project, an early backer of Bevin over McConnell. “From our conversations with the activists on the ground, we are optimistic that the voters will oppose Mitch McConnell and his K Street cronies and support Matt Bevin on May 20.”
Plagued by what could be a first-time candidate’s missteps, Bevin hasn’t been helped by McConnell’s relentless and well-financed attack machine. Those campaigning for Bevin in Kentucky admit those ads calling their candidate a “liar” and “con man” have taken a toll.
“It’s disheartening to a point,” says United Kentucky Tea Party spokesman Scott Hofstra, who is supporting Bevin. “A 30 year senator has to resort to negative attacks and slandering in order to try and win his race. An unfortunately, it works.”
“I think early on it did hurt Matt. I think he’s been able to come back from some of that. But time is short and we’ve got a short window to try and win this election.”
McConnell’s re-election team touts Erickson’s blog post as an early white flag.
Activists going door-to-door and making phones calls on Bevin’s behalf in Kentucky are not discouraged, however. The most loyal Bevin supporters are hopeful that as May 20 approaches their voters will be more energized in what could be a low turnout contest.
“They’re actually hearing about 2-to-1 folks supporting Matt,” says Hofsra. “I think he can close the gap in the time he has left. In fact, if an honest poll were taken today of likely Republican voters we’d find the gap has already narrowed dramatically from what we’re hearing.”
The Bevin campaign did not respond to our request for comment.