Mitch McConnell Leads Tea Party Opponent By 32 Points

Mitchell McConnell Matt Bevin

In addition to polling several Republican-Democratic matchups in the South, the NBC/Marist poll I wrote about earlier also polled primary races, including the race in Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell holds a seemingly insurmountable lead over Matt Bevin:

WASHINGTON – Kentucky voters go to the polls a week from Tuesday, and it appears the battle for the Republican Senate nomination will be produce a lopsided victory for Mitch McConnell, according to a new poll.

But a November match-up between McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes is a dead-heat, the survey says.

The NBC News-Marist Poll finds McConnell, the Senate minority leader, with a wide lead of 57-25 percent over his challenger, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin.

As I noted when I last wrote about this race, pollsters have pretty much stayed away from polling this race since February, largely because the polls up until that point showed McConnell with a massive lead over his Tea Party challenger. This poll seems to show that, in the three months that have passed since then, Bevin has been utterly unsuccessful in picking up any ground on the Senate Majority Leader not withstanding the support of nearly all of the major national Tea Party organizations, including FreedomWorks which has brought in its own volunteers to assist the campaign. In the end, as Allahpundit notes, it really isn’t all that surprising:

How come Bevin never caught on? Lots of reasons. McConnell had sky-high name recognition and a huge war chest, of course, but his team also cannily buried Bevin’s messaging under numerous low-grade controversies (including cockfighting), dubbing him “Bailout Bevin” — even though it was McConnell who voted for TARP in 2008. And despite being endorsed by several tea-party commentators and outside groups, Bevin never landed any big names among Republican politicians. No Palin, no Ted Cruz (who said he’d stay out of races involving GOP incumbents but added that that wasn’t set in stone), and of course no Rand Paul, the one guy more than any other who could have gotten Kentucky tea partiers’ attention on Bevin’s behalf. Instead Rand endorsed McConnell. The establishment will be grateful.

Of all the losses that the Tea Party is likely to suffer this primary season, the failure to defeat McConnell will likely sting as much as the failure to defeat South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who also seems likely to beat back his Tea Party challengers. The big question, of course, is whether Bevin supporters will turn out in fall for McConnell. The poll seems to indicate that they will and I tend to think that this is correct. In the end, these people are Republicans who are going to want a Republican controlled Senate, and the only way they’ll be able to have a voice in that matter in November is by voting for Mitch McConnell.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Anonne says:

    Of course they will vote for McConnell. Very few of them actually believe their guff enough to not vote for him and stay home.

  2. legion says:

    Tea Party candidates are uniformly extremist nutjobs, even by GOP standards. They rarely stand a chance in a general election outside of vibrantly red districts, and even then, they can’t win their own primaries unless the incumbent they’refacing is just totally incompetent. There are lots of bad things to say about McConnell, but the man knows how to run a campaign. I don’t believe Bevin was ever going to be more than a minor distraction. The question now, though, is: how will McConnell do against an actual Democratic contender, instead of some underfunded cardboard cut-out like he’s been used to for the last few decades?

  3. Dee W. says:


    I’m not sure what you are talking about with that last sentence. The only time Mitch McConnell had token, “underfunded” Democrat opposition was in 2002. Every other election the Democrats have gone after him with both barrels.