As TPM noted, Mitch McConnell tried to minimize the anti-incumbent mood of the voters right now after his endorsement of Trey Grayson over Rand Paul in the Kentucky Senate race. Whatever you say Mitch...
For almost a year, Mitch McConnell's protege Trey Grayson has been the standard bearer of the state GOP establishment in the Kentucky senate primary. But today on Meet The Press, his benefactor seemed to suggest that that the outcome of Grayson's battle with Tea Party favorite Rand Paul might not matter much one way or another.
"We don't have incumbency on the line in Kentucky," he said. "We have two non-incumbents running for an open seat."
...McConnell appears to be preparing to embrace Paul, showcasing the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" style of an experienced politician. He offered somewhat tepid support for Grayson on MTP, while making it clear he thinks Paul can win in the fall.
Other establishment Republicans have already resigned themselves to a Paul win, with most at last week's GOP state party chair convention near Washington saying they're ready to get behind Paul in November, despite the fact that most of the party's official machinery is still working for Grayson.
McConnell publicly endorsed Grayson just a few weeks ago, cutting an ad for him that's running the final days before the May 18 primary. On Meet The Press this morning, McConnell reaffirmed that support -- but also tried to make nice with Paul at the same time.
One of the TPM commenters summed this up nicely.
"It reminds me of when the president went into Massachusetts," McConnell said, referring to President Obama's last-ditch efforts to defeat Scott Brown in the race to replace Ted Kennedy in January. "I don't think anybody seriously thinks the president won't carry Massachusetts next time."
Where's the similarity? Obama was supporting the establishment candidate, backed by the Democratic apparatus, and Scott Brown is a Republican. So Grayson = Coakley, Paul = Brown, and McConnell = Obama?
I'm guessing this didn't get any follow through from David "Let them eat facts" Gregory, did it?
No one ever accused McConnell of making sense or David Gregory of asking follow up questions of Republicans. Transcript below the fold.
GREGORY: Let me move on to Kentucky politics, something I'm sure you're thinking about this week. This is the race that you've been engaged in, the Senate primary between the secretary of state of Kentucky, and that, of course, is Trey Grayson, against Rand Paul, who's got support from Sarah Palin and from the tea party movement. And right now, Senator, as you know, it is Rand Paul's to lose. He's up double digits. And The Washington Post had this headline this past week, and that is "The old Kentucky reign: Who will join McConnell in the Senate? Depends on how much voters like McConnell." You have really put yourself out on a limb on this race ,and the voters appear to be rejecting that. Is this a referendum on you and the establishment Republican Party?
McCONNELL: Well, it reminds me of when the president went in to Massachusetts, a state he carried by 26 points, and tried to elect the candidate running against Scott Brown. I don't think anybody seriously thinks the president won't carry Massachusetts next time. This is a race between two non-incumbents. There's been a lot of discussion about incumbency. We'll find out maybe something about incumbency Tuesday in Arkansas and, and Pennsylvania, where we have two Democratic incumbents in serious races. We don't have incumbency on the line in Kentucky. We have two non-incumbents running for an open seat. One of our senators is supporting one candidate, and one is supporting the other candidate. Whichever one ends up running the best race, I guess, will be the nominee. But most importantly, in terms of the Kentucky scene, we will have a unity rally at the state party headquarters on--next Saturday to get behind the winner and win in November.
GREGORY: You're not going to be in Kentucky on election night, are you?
McCONNELL: Well, the Senate is in session on Tuesday, but I'll be at state headquarters next Saturday with the winner, and we'll all lock arms and go out and win in November.
GREGORY: But you're, you're suggesting that your efforts to help Trey Grayson have not paid off, you expect Rand Paul to win?
McCONNELL: No, I don't know who's going to win. I hope it will help. I think Trey Grayson would be a stronger candidate in November. But I expect Kentucky's going to be in a pretty Republican mood this fall, and I'm optimistic that whoever wins the primary will be the next senator from Kentucky.
GREGORY: What does it say, though, about the strength of the tea party movement? However large and vast that movement is, it certainly has been in evidence in the support for Rand Paul.
McCONNELL: Yeah, I think so, and it's an important movement in the country, and I think it's really going to help us in November.