Elections

At a quiet conservatives rally, Bevin flirts with endorsing McConnell

U.S. Sen. Mitch  McConnell spoke Wednesday during the  Restore  America rally in  Louisville. Other  speakers Matt Bevin, his May primary  opponent;  conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell spoke Wednesday during the Restore America rally in Louisville. Other speakers Matt Bevin, his May primary opponent; conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. AP

JEFFERSONTOWN — Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin came as close as he has to endorsing former rival Mitch McConnell at a Restore America rally Wednesday night.

[More on Kentucky's U.S. Senate race]

With a few hundred conservatives gathered to hear from McConnell, the Senate's minority leader, and a small team of Republican surrogates, Bevin tried to warm up the subdued audience, telling them if they were thinking about voting for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, they should "think again."

"There is nothing being brought forward by the Democratic Party in this state that is good for Kentucky. Nothing," Bevin said.

But he continued to be cagey about backing McConnell, who walloped him after an expensive and contentious primary in May, offering an indictment of Grimes instead of a outright endorsement of McConnell.

In his remarks, Bevin told the crowd that "elections have consequences."

"I say with all due respect to a lot of folks who might say otherwise, sometimes we might need to get over it and move on," Bevin said. "We have new races to run and new decisions to make. There is too much at stake."

Asked after his speech whether that was an endorsement of McConnell, Bevin snapped, "You've got ears."

The former candidate's remarks came at the beginning of a two-hour event that was more seminar than pep rally as McConnell tries to unite Republicans behind his effort to hold off Grimes and win a sixth term that potentially could him becoming majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

Though there were plenty of empty seats in the convention center, the crowd seemed appreciative of the remarks by Bevin, McConnell, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, former California U.S. Senate candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Hewitt, whose radio show is adored nationally by conservatives, said after McCon nell spoke that "it will be a much better America on Wednesday if he's the leader of the Senate."

The common thread running through each of the speeches was a scathing rebuke of President Barack Obama and Grimes.

"There's nobody the president of the United States wants to beat more than me," McConnell said to applause. "And there's nobody that I want to have a bad night next Tuesday than him."

Fiorina assailed Grimes for her refusal to say whether she voted for Obama when he ran for president in 2008 and 2012, saying, "Alison Lundergan Grimes won't even tell you whether she voted for President Obama."

"This man is clear we need to defeat President Obama's policies," Fiorina said, nodding to McConnell.

Assailing what "liberals" won't talk about, Fiorina said that Grimes, if elected, would "complete the destruction of the coal industry here in Kentucky."

"President Obama will drive that environmental agenda to its bitter end," Fiorina said.

Jindal, considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate, also trained his remarks on Obama.

"I think President Obama is the first president ever to occupy the White House that does not believe in American exceptionalism," Jindal said.

The Grimes campaign, which down the stretch has introduced preserving Social Security as a main issue through which to attack McConnell, said in a statement earlier Wednesday that McConnell's "bringing in the House champion of privatization borders on political suicide."

That was a reference to Jindal, who championed Social Security reform as a member of Congress before he became governor.

"McConnell's record shows privatizing Social Security will be a top priority if re-elected, and he needs to come clean with the voters of Kentucky regarding his true belief that 'saving' Social Security is achieved by privatizing it," Jonathan Hurst, Grimes' campaign manager, said in the statement.

The parade of Republican surrogates for McConnell offered a brief intermission in the train of high-profile visitors to the state who are backing Grimes.

Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to do two events with Grimes on Thursday, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be back in the state Saturday.

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