By John David Dyche
It is time to check in on Matt Bevin. Remember him? He is the multi-millionaire tea party-type Connecticut transplant who, instead of taking on liberal Louisville Democrat John Yarmuth for the House of Representatives, wants to oust Republican leader Mitch McConnell and his 90% lifetime American Conservative Union rating from the Senate.
Bevin has not raised much money, but his personal wealth will pay for a good campaign if he parts with it. Roll Call recently reported that Bevin has between $1 and $5 million in a checking account, $500,000 to $1 million in a money market account, between $4.5 million and $43 million in investments, rental properties in several states worth $1.5 to $2.25 million, mutual funds, and stocks in companies like Blackberry, Microsoft, and Oracle, to name a few.
He is getting financial help from groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, the brainchild of former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint. Those political geniuses masterminded the government shutdown debacle and have spent over $340,000 on the race.
President Obama considers McConnell a major obstacle to the administration's liberal agenda, but Bevin and DeMint's other delusional disciples amazingly accuse him of being insufficiently opposed to Obamacare. Even more absurd are the accusations from the foaming mouths of such ideological zealots that McConnell should have somehow stopped majority Senate Democrats from using the so-called "nuclear option" to limit filibusters or is a "RINO," or "Republican in Name Only."
McConnell may not have single-handedly built the Republican Party of Kentucky, but he has been the indispensable man in modernizing it and making the state GOP arguably more powerful than ever. While Bevin was back East getting government bailouts and making misstatements about his tax liens, McConnell was doing the difficult work that changed Kentucky from a mostly blue state into a largely red one.
Ironically, McConnell's efforts for the national party included a fundraiser that produced over $50,000 for DeMint's 2004 Senate campaign. McConnell was evidently sufficiently conservative then since DeMint took the money.
The Bevin-DeMint brand of true believers would rather lose with bad but doctrinally pure candidates than win with solid conservatives. Republicans would probably have as many Senate seats as Democrats do now if lousy Bevin-like contenders Todd Akin in Missouri, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware had not lost winnable seats.
But Bevin is justified in demanding that McConnell and the rest of the Republican establishment defend its record during the George W. Bush era from 2001-2009. Those years of predominately Republican power produced two wars financed with borrowed money, a big new Medicare benefit also debt financed, ballooning deficits, a major new federal intrusion into education, and failure on issues like immigration and health care that helped elect Obama.
Bevin, a former military officer, is also on solid ground in challenging McConnell to debate. McConnell will make a mistake if he avoids going one-on-one with this challenger as he has some others.
As a matter of mere politics McConnell's reluctance to give a lesser known opponent equal status on a stage is understandable. Yet dodging a debate against a credible foe in today's anti-Washington environment, when the nation is in great peril, and while our troops are still risking their lives in the field would be absolutely indefensible. People need to know that McConnell has no sense of entitlement to his seat and is willing to bare-knuckle brawl to earn reelection.
The moderator and/or panel must be neutral (i.e., not comprised of Kentucky's many anti-McConnell media members) and the format fair (i.e., more like Kennedy-Nixon than an Oprah-style conversation or a "town meeting"). If so, McConnell should aggressively attack Bevin's inferior knowledge about both actual governance and Kentucky while describing how the state benefits from being represented by a potential Senate majority leader.
Maybe the most crucial thing about this race remains that Kentucky's other senator, Rand Paul, the personification of the liberty and tea party movements, endorses McConnell, not Bevin. The popular Paul, a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has worked well with McConnell, respects his parliamentary skills and shrewd political mind, and realizes the benefits of keeping him in power.
Meanwhile, the likely Democratic nominee, Alison Lundergan Grimes, garners pro-gun control praise from Michele Obama, raises money with anti-coal activists, and avoids taking a definitive stand on everything from Obamacare to the Iran deal. Surely this state will not send someone like that to support Obama in Washington. The real race is on the Republican side.