Exclusive -- Bevin: Primary Against McConnell 'Microcosm' of Tea Party vs. Establishment
Businessman Matt Bevin told Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon in an exclusive interview on Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot that his race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a “microcosm” of the larger Tea Party versus establishment battle.
Bannon started off the interview by pointing out that “Kentucky stayed neutral in the civil war but it’s not staying neutral in the war between the establishment [and the Tea Party].”
Bannon said “five factors have made this a kind of a national story,” pointing first to last week’s Breitbart News article which exposed how McConnell, according to a major donor, targeted what he called "bullies" in the grassroots movement who he thinks need a punch in the nose in an attack on the Senate Conservatives Fund and conservatives in general. Second, Bannon pointed to how, according to Roll Call, Bevin’s financial disclosure statement this week shows that Bevin has “substantial net worth and enough cash on hand to fund a very serious challenge.”
Third, Bannon noted Bevin won a Boone County GOP straw poll with 85 percent of the vote. Fourth, he highlighted how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option, changing 225 years of Senate rules in order to slip radical nominees from President Barack Obama through to confirmation.
Finally, Bannon noted that McConnell has been polling badly against Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes “in a state that Romney carried by 22 percent.” Bannon also noted that Hollywood connections and people like David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg “are going to be raising $40 million for the Secretary of State Ms. Grimes to compete as a Democratic candidate.”
Bevin said that "for a variety of reasons," including the ones Bannon listed, this will be a big race nationally. "It is a microcosm in some respects not only for the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party but frankly for the heart and soul of the entire political process," Bevin said. "It really is. There is a tug of war going on between ‘We the People’ who still believe at the ballot box that this is a government by and for us. And it’s a battle between us and those who think it’s by and for a handful and that that handful gets to self-select and self-profligate and self-choose who’s next in line.”
Bevin and Bannon discussed how Bevin attended college at Virginia’s Washington and Lee University in the ROTC program. Bevin had become an officer in the U.S. military, eventually rising to the rank of captain serving in the army’s field artillery. He noted in the interview that “when I took my oath of office, Robert E. Lee was buried literally beneath my feet when I took my oath of office in Lee Chapel and when I was commissioned as an army officer.” Bevin spent some time at Fort Sill in Lawton, OK before spending most of his time in the military at Fort Polk in Louisiana.
“My primary job was as a division counter-fire officer, so I was attached to the division artillery,” Bevin said. “I was the guy responsible for all return fire in battle. So, as you know, you do a lot of things that don’t have a lot of direct immediate applicability in the civilian sector and yet you also have the opportunity to learn skills especially as it pertains to management and decision-making in an age where you just don’t have anything commensurate in the private sector.”
Bannon asked Bevin why, when Grimes’ and McConnell’s “primary purposes will be to peel the bark off Matt Bevin,” he would put himself, his career and his family in the line of fire to run for the U.S. Senate. “Because I’ll tell you our nation has always called upon men and women to stand up when there was a gap that needed someone to stand in it,” Bevin answered.
“We are as a nation, and I don’t care what side of the aisle people are on, seventy-plus percent of Americans strongly believe that we’re on the wrong path financially and I couldn’t agree more," he stated. "The path we’re on financially is unsustainable. And I look at my children and I think I can leave money to them, I can try to leave businesses to them, but to have in what type of America? What type of a world?"
"Winston Churchill once said history turns on these sorts of insignificant moments in times," Bevin said. "You look back through the lens of history and you realize how critical they actually were. But he said shame on the man who finds himself at such a juncture who is either unprepared or unwilling to take up the task.”
When Bannon asked Bevin about McConnell’s support for the 2010 earmark ban, as people like Ending Spending’s Brian Baker (the head of the Super PAC that took down earmarks) say McConnell’s support for banning earmarks was instrumental. Bevin argued that McConnell should not get credit for making that happen.
“Sen. McConnell did do one of the major structural reforms that we had recently in that which he led on earmarks,” Bannon said. “He was a leader with Joe Ricketts and Ending Spending and Brian Baker and these people that made a big deal of getting rid of earmarks. If Sen. McConnell had not stepped up and really led the charge on that, we’d have earmarks today—which is kind of the entry-level drug for spending although on an aggregate basis it’s not huge it’s where all the deals were cut.”
Bevin disagrees with that assessment of the earmark debate.
“No, I don’t give him credit for that because he was the master of the earmark,” Bevin said. “Was he involved in voting for it at the time? Yes. But if you go back and look at which way the wind was blowing, that was going to happen whether he got on or not."
"You asked me a moment ago what things I learned in the military, I learned about leadership by example," he explained. "If there’s one thing as a young officer you can take away, it’s about leadership by example not leadership by sticking your finger in the wind and figuring out which coattail to grab onto or which wagon to hitch yourself to after it’s already in motion.”
When asked why Sen. Rand Paul would endorse McConnell, as he has done, Bevin said that Paul “does support the same things I do.”
“He knows that,” Bevin said. “I know Rand and his wife Kelly. I like Rand a lot. I think he’s done a heck of a job in what he said he would do when he ran. But we all know Rand aspires to potentially higher offices and those things cost money.”
Bevin added that Paul “made that alliance” with McConnell “long before I was in this race.”
“He has stayed to that, but he has made it very clear including in recent commentary that he has no beef with me. He disagrees very strongly with McConnell about McConnell’s assessment of me because McConnell knows he’s making stuff up about me," Bevin claimed. "And Rand came out and said on the record that he doesn’t believe it. He said I’m a good, honest Christian man. I appreciate that because I think that’s a more fair assessment and he knows it.”
When asked about whether he or McConnell had the best shot to beat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election, Bevin said, “It’s not a coincidence that her advisers are saying both on the record and off the record that they want to run against McConnell.”
“They could much more easily beat him in the general,” Bevin said. “And you see, based on this polling, that, which is insane. Obama lost the state by 23 absolute percentage points. The fact that this is neck and neck with a guy who’s been a senator for 30 years is an indication of the fact that he’s going to lose."
"She runs on four things," he continued. "She runs on being young, being new, being a woman and not being Mitch McConnell. Frankly, those are all pure emotion. It has nothing to do with life experience, nothing to do with knowledge of issues. She won’t need to talk about experience or issues to beat him because there are that many people that are that tired of him.”
Bevin said he has driven more than 20,000 miles around Kentucky meeting with people, gaining momentum for his campaign. “The crowds are getting bigger and bigger and the rooms are getting more interested,” Bevin said. “And this is all good. This is how it’s going to be won, from the bottom up."
"I’d love to debate [McConnell]. He would love not to debate me," Bevin claimed. "I think the fact of the matter is it will get closer in the end to the degree where he realizes he’s behind, and I believe it won’t happen until next Spring, at which point he’ll be forced to debate me. I think he’ll try to minimize it to one at the most. I’d love to debate him two or three times.”
When asked about how he has only about $160,000 in his campaign coffers, according to his latest Federal Election Commission filings, compared to upwards of $9 million for McConnell, Bevin said that he has been building his name recognition and grassroots support for the first few months of the campaign. “Three months ago, nobody knew who I was,” Bevin said. “I’ve been in this race for three, three and a half months now. And in that time—maybe it’s coming up on four [months]—but it’s been less than four months since I made my announcement. I’ve received donations from close to 10,000 of those folks you’re talking about [small donors of less than a couple hundred dollars]. That’s an awful lot for someone that nobody knew."
"My support is coming from the bottom up. I have no intention whatsoever of trying to ‘buy’ this seat," Bevin explained. "That’s what he’s trying to do. You can pick California, pick Connecticut, there’s any number of instances where people have employed significant portions of their own money [and lost]. Money doesn’t buy you votes. This is a race that’s going to be won at the ballot box. It’s going to be won from the bottom up. It’s a grassroots game. This is how I’m going to win.”