Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson says Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will likely have a primary battle, but questions if that candidate will provide a viable challenge.
In an interview with Politico this week, McConnell acknowledged he might have a GOP opponent but boasted “there is not any chance” he could lose such a race.
Tea Party leaders in the state have promised a challenger is forthcoming who will take on McConnell’s positions from a more conservative viewpoint, but no one has stepped up at this time.
Grayson was a McConnell protégé who lost to Rand Paul in the 2010 Republican primary.
He says McConnell has done a good job of keeping the state GOP unified and made solid partnerships with libertarian and tea party leaning lawmakers.
“I think the question is there going to be somebody out there who can give him a real run for the money, and it doesn’t look like it. There’s certainly a group of folks—some tea party leaders and others, David Adams for example—who are trying to find a candidate who can take him on. And everyday that candidate’s not in the race it becomes that much harder of a proposition,” he says.
Paul has warmed to McConnell over the years and said in March he thought it was unlikely Kentucky’s senior senator would even face a GOP challenger, but his former campaign manager disagrees.
Adams told LEO Weekly’s Joe Sonka on Tuesday that Tea Party groups have found a primary challenge, although he won’t say who.
“The search is complete and it was successful,” says Adams. “We’re just about ready to rock and roll.”
Adams declined to give any additional information about the mystery Republican, other than to say he or she would announce “pretty soon.”
We’re guessing whoever this person is comes out of the gates hitting McConnell on the NSA/PRISM/Patriot Act kerfuffle, as Sen. Rand Paul and a good number of the Tea Party faithful are up in arms over this.
For months, former state auditor candidate John Kemper and Louisville businessman Matthew Bevin have been the rumored potential opponents.
The big questions would be can a Kemper, Bevin or other candidate receive support from outside groups such as FreedomWorks or the Tea Party Express. Others question if this person would be able to get lawmakers such as Congressman Thomas Massie to reconsider their support of McConnell.
Three years ago, Paul benefited greatly from the fundraising infrastructure built by his father—former Congressman Ron Paul—which gave him money and organization.
Grayson, who now heads Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, says he doesn’t see a similar opponent out there now. However, he is familiar with the ability of a relative newcomer beating the establishment and adds an unknown and credible challenger (Democrat or tea party) could still emerge to defeat McConnell.
“In June of 2009 not too many people gave Rand Paul a chance of beating me let alone four years later being one of the front-runners to become President of the United States. So anything can happen,” he says. “And you can have these fresh faces come out of the woodwork. Far be it for me to say you can’t lose a primary.”