Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

National Tea Party Group Defends Endorsement of Mitch McConnell

National tea party leaders are not backing down from their endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, despite pushback from local tea party factions in Kentucky.

Speaking with reporters outside an event that featured appearances by all of the prominent tea-party-backed senators, Scottie Hughes of defended her group’s decision to back the Kentucky Republican. McConnell helped the group organize the event in the Capitol.

Both Hughes’ Tea Party News Network and its umbrella organization have endorsed McConnell, even though he is expected to pick up a tea-party-inspired primary challenger on Wednesday. Local groups in Kentucky have asked the national groups to rescind their support.

“The national tea party doesn’t want to sit here and go against anything a local tea party group says. That being said, however, we need to look to make sure that we’re properly vetting our candidates, which is something the tea party has done very badly in the past,” Hughes told reporters gathered outside the event. “We as a national tea party are encouraging this local tea party group: You need to sit down and vet the candidate you’ve picked, vet his background, make sure that he’s not just coming out as kind of a loose cannon as a tea party candidate.”

Hughes identified previous tea party candidates that weren’t properly vetted, including the 2010 case of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. O’Donnell upended moderate then-Rep. Mike Castle in the state’s Senate primary only to then flop in the general election.

Hughes appeared to be making reference to Matthew Bevins, a Kentucky businessman expected to announce a primary challenge to McConnell on Wednesday in Frankfort, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“Sen. McConnell has been a very strong supporter of us for the past year, and when you look at it, the other thing that the tea party needs to do is we need to win, and we need to make sure that we’re winning with the most conservative candidate,” Hughes said. “We’re getting good candidates who really are going to win, and we want to make sure that they’re not weakened going into the Democratic challenger.”

Hughes argued that conservative dollars might be better spent on a different race than the one involving McConnell. McConnell’s home-state colleague Sen. Rand Paul, who won his seat largely on the strength of the tea party, has also endorsed McConnell and suggested the grass-roots movement should focus on open-seat races rather than primaries against sitting Republicans.

Louisville television station WHAS reported Monday that 15 local tea party groups sent a letter to The Tea Party.Net and Tea Party Nation, asking them to withdraw their endorsement of McConnell.

“Senator McConnell’s Progressive Liberal voting record, his absolute iron fisted rule over the Republican Party in Kentucky and his willingness to roll over and cede power to President Obama and the Liberals in Washington, prove that he is no friend to the American people or the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” the letter says, according to WHAS.

The letter also accuses the national tea party organizations of undermining “the work of the real grassroots Tea Party organizations all over Kentucky. Had you taken the time to reach out to us, you would have learned that the Tea Parties in Kentucky do NOT support Senator McConnell’s campaign.”

  • Siegfried Heydrich

    Ah, fun times at the Cannibal Bar & Grill . . . So now you start seeing a split in the TP itself between the ones who want to win more than be ideologically pure, and the ones who want to cast out everyone who is not ideologically pure.

    Oh, boy, the next couple of GOP primary cycles are going to be a pure joy to watch as they rip one another into tasty bite sized morsels. The Kilkenney cats are nothing in comparison . . .

  • C. Edmund Wright

    Actually, the primary is the place to hash these things out. It’s only cannibalism when it carries over to the general election from the sore loser side….which is normally the GOP establishment side.

  • Siegfried Heydrich

    In normal times, I would agree. But the times are no longer ‘normal’. The GOP is divided by an internecine civil war, and is tearing the party asunder. The GOP is being essentially blackmailed by a radical faction – toe our line, or we’re going to mount a primary challenge and tear you apart.

    So in a GOP primary, you have a RINO that the TP base hates, and a bagro that the GOP fears. Now, you can bet that the Rove PACs are going to try to moneybomb the bagroes into oblivion, which will only intensify the feelings of hostility that the TP has for the GOP. So the heat and vitriol and venom only increases as the campaign progresses. Bear in mind that this is in full public view .. .

    Eventually one will win. If it’s the RINO, it’s extremely likely that the bagroes who now have their noses massively out of joint will either sit out the election or write in a protest vote just to show THEM! Thus handing the seat to a democrat.

    If it’s the bagro who wins, then the GOP has to make the decision as to whether or not it would be in their best long-term interests to have a democrat in the seat which can be challenged next election, or a putative ‘ally’ whose hostility towards them is only slightly less than their hostility towards the democrats. Bear in mind that if the bagro wins, they’ll have to do the whole nasty, messy, expensive primary process all over again next cycle.
    I can see the national committee deciding not to back radicals in the general, reasoning that on one hand a democrat might be on the other side, but on the other, they’re willing to work with them.

    Also consider that at the end of the nasty, vicious, bruising and bloody primary, the victor is going to come out looking like they just did ten rounds with Mike Tyson with depleted coffers. And worse, all of this nastiness will have played out in front of voters who are really pretty sick and tired of all the negativity and just wants their gov’t to work, and our elected officials to do their bloody job.

    Well, good luck with that . . .

  • C. Edmund Wright

    Well you tipped your hand about who you are and what you are about. You’re either a hopeless estab type or a liberal giving the GOP advice because, after all, you have their best interests at heart. Your endless cliches, plus the mindless and not clever at all “bagro” term gave you away. I’ve less than zero interest in what you have to say regarding advice…

  • Siegfried Heydrich

    I find the term ‘teabagger’ or just ‘bagger’ offensive, so I call them ‘bagroes’, or ‘bagro-americans’. As for the rest, well in that case, please do try to die with just a modicum if dignity. Believe me, you won’t be missed in the least.

  • gcarroll247

    and the man the ky tea party supports does not pay his taxes just wait it is all coming out !

  • Michael Shreve

    The T.E.A. Party is NOT a party, BUT national organization SHOULD consider the input of the “boots on the ground”. The T.E.A. Party is a grassroots organization. Election WINS are generated LOCALLY. McConnell is a RINO. No REAL T.E.A. Party would support him.

  • Michael Shreve

    The T.E.A. Party is NOT a Party, BUT national organization SHOULD consider the input of the “boots on the ground”. The T.E.A. Party is a grassroots organization. Election WINS are generated LOCALLY. McConnell is a RINO. No REAL T.E.A. Party would support him.

  • Citizen Loring

    The Tea “Party” is over.

  • Citizen Loring

    No there not, they’re a bunch of subversive radicals who dream of an America that ever existed. If you really think that they have a snowball’s chance of winning national elections, you’re smoking something.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...