Two days ago, hedge fund manager Matt Bevin announced his Kentucky Republican primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Yesterday, the senator hit the television airwaves in record post-announcement time, already launching an attack ad against his new opponent:
Obviously, McConnell is taking no chances and attempting to define Bevin in negative terms before the new candidate has the opportunity to even introduce himself to the Kentucky Republican electorate.
But, Bevin apparently saw the McConnell strategy coming because he, too, is on the air with his own attack ad against the Senate leader:
Since Bevin reportedly is independently wealthy, he should have the resources needed to mount a serious campaign, and the events this week already show that both sides mean business. Bevin clearly wants to establish himself early as a credible contender in hopes of attracting important financial support from such groups on the ideological right as the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
As the senator prepares for a presumed general election battle against the Democratic Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes, he wants to quickly extinguish his Republican challenger; but Bevin is sending early signals that he won’t go down quietly.
Bevin attacks McConnell from the right, questioning the quality of his leadership and claiming that the 30-year senatorial veteran voted for higher taxes and “liberal judges.” McConnell immediately goes for Bevin’s political jugular vein, pointing out that the political newcomer’s “Connecticut business” took a $200,000 taxpayer bailout after failing to pay his own taxes. According to the McConnell ad, Bevin’s enterprise was assessed eight different liens for failure to pay its own taxes.
Interestingly, Sen. McConnell is clearly sending early signals that he will take off the proverbial gloves, and do so with reckless abandon. The attack ad is sponsored directly from the McConnell campaign itself, including the mandatory disclaimer that the candidate appears in the ad and states his approval of the message, instead of being carried by an outside Super PAC.
If the first week of this primary challenge campaign is any indication of the level of competition that will occur between now and next May, then the Kentucky Republican senatorial primary could become a political nuclear war.