After the Senate Conservative Fund (SCF) endorsed Matt Bevin, the Tea Party challenger to Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), McConnell has reportedly gone on a rampage against SCF allies and the conservative candidates it has endorsed.
Most recently, McConnell reportedly directed his anger at Nebraska conservative Senate candidate Ben Sasse, whom the SCF has endorsed in the open primary.
According to National Review, on November 12, “Sasse walked into Mitch McConnell’s office to clear the air” and let him know he never intended to oppose McConnell’s leadership, but McConnell was having none of it. The outlet notes that McConnell’s incident with Sasse in his war with SCF is “notable” because “it involves an attractive, promising candidate in an open primary as collateral damage in the intramural fight.”
Josh Holmes, McConnell’s top adviser, “privately told friends afterward it was the most uncomfortable meeting he’d been in”; Sasse reportedly turned to Holmes when he walked out of meeting and said, “That didn’t go well!”
McConnell reportedly “lit into” and grilled Sasse about “exactly when Sasse had first interacted with Matt Hoskins, the hard-charging executive director of SCF” who is “working to elect McConnell’s primary challenger.” The SCF was started by former South Carolina Senator and current Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, who feuded with McConnell because he backed candidates–like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)–that went up against McConnell’s handpicked candidates in Republican primaries.
McConnell reportedly asked Sasse about the YouTube video (embedded below) that was highlighted on the Drudge Report in September in which Sasse said it was time for “every Republican in Washington, starting with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to show some actual leadership.”
In that video, Sasse also ripped Washington’s permanent political class, saying that elected officials are not kings and the American people are not “peasants.” He said there is not “one set of rules for the Washington elite and another for the masses” and called on McConnell to show leadership and give up his Obamacare subsidies. The outlet also reported that “the bad blood between Sasse and McConnell escalated” when Sasse met with National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) political director Ward Baker.
McConnell, along with the Republican establishment like the NRSC, is mounting an organized effort against conservatives and Tea Partiers. For instance, McConnell, as Breitbart News reported, said he would like to punch the SCF “in the nose” on a conference call with donors of Karl Rove’s political group on October 30. McConnell has taken steps to put his words into action; National Review reported that “pressure from McConnell allies convinced SCF’s bookkeeper, Lisa Lisker, to part ways with the group,” even though “Lisker has previously worked for Republican candidates locked in tense primary elections without incident.” McConnell has been accused of “bullying” the bookkeeper.
Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, in response to McConnell’s hostile words, told Breitbart News, “Why would Senator Mitch McConnell want to ‘punch in the nose’ the millions of patriotic moms, grandmoms and veterans who stand up for America through the Tea Party and groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund?”
“The people supporting SCF are the same people going to Tea Party meetings and rallies across the country. We elect our representatives to represent us, not to threaten us with physical violence during secret meetings with Karl Rove’s friends,” she told Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle. She added that “everything” the Tea Party said “about Obamacare turned out to be true.”
She continued, “If they’ve got so much fight in them, then where were they when we needed them to stand up and fight against Obamacare?” Martin also emphasized that the “Tea Party Patriots shares Senate Conservatives Fund’s goal of holding establishment Republicans accountable, and specifically, we shared the goal of defunding Obamacare.”
McConnell has not endorsed Sasse’s primary opponent in the race, but Sasse is being considered “collateral damage” in a fight he never wanted in McConnell’s and the Republican establishment’s broader war on conservative Tea Partiers and specifically against SCF.