By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
The odds appear long, time is running out and some seen to be writing off Matt Bevin’s chances of beating incumbent, five-term Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the May 20 GOP primary.
But Bevin isn’t giving up, telling a couple of small early-morning groups in Barren County Wednesday he’s not quitting despite the odds or attempts by some in the Republican Party to persuade him to step aside in the interest of party unity.
“I get more invitations to just stop now – it’s what’s good for the party, they say,” Bevin told about 15 people at a Glasgow restaurant.
“The last thing I’m going to do is throw in the towel,” Bevin said.
He also hedged just a bit when asked if he’ll support McConnell in the general election if the incumbent wins the primary. Bevin in the past has answered reporters’ questions about supporting McConnell should he win that he’s always been a Republican and votes that way.
The Republican Party of Kentucky emailed each campaign a letter Thursday asking each candidate to sign it but Bevin said he hadn’t seen it when he began his day at 7 a.m. CDT in Glasgow.
McConnell’s campaign spokeswoman said he plans to support the party’s nominee.
“From day one, Senator McConnell has committed to supporting the winner of the primary election,” said Allison Moore. “The stakes of this election are too high to give President Obama another vote in the U.S. Senate with Alison Lundergan Grimes.”
But while addressing the group in Glasgow, Bevin complained McConnell continues to attack him personally while seeking agreement for his support after the primary.
“You can’t attack everybody and then expect everybody is going to say Kumbaya,” Bevin said.
Asked later and directly if he would support whoever wins the May 20 primary in the fall against a Democratic opponent, Bevin said he hadn’t seen the letter from RPK.
“I’m not going to comment on what I’ll do or not do based on something I haven’t seen,” Bevin said.
He was then asked if he planned to support the Republican nominee independently of what the letter might say, Bevin responded: “When I see this (letter) I’ll make a decision.”
At a stop in Cave City, a couple of registered Republicans who are Bevin supporters were asked if they will support McConnell should he win the primary.
Les Carney of Cave City said he supports Bevin because McConnell “has been there too long. We just need a stronger, more conservative person.” But Carney said he will vote for whichever of the two wins the Republican nomination.
Bing Hilton of Glasgow wasn’t so sure.
“I’ll have to come to a decision about that then,” Hilton said. He said even after “a 30-year career and being the Minority Leader for seven years, (McConnell) hasn’t shown me much.”
Hilton said Bevin “comes right out and tells you his beliefs,” but “Mitch has given us nothing. He wants another six years and hasn’t told us where he wants to go.”
Bevin told supporters at the first stop that he can still win if they work to get his name and message out. He said he will unveil a jobs plan Thursday at a stop in Hazard. He said the timing of the jobs plan wasn’t tied to a controversial remark by McConnell last week in Lee County that job creation wasn’t his job but that of the state.
McConnell’s statement “afforded the perfect opportunity” but his jobs plan isn’t simply an effort to exploit the episode, Bevin said. Likely Democratic nominee Grimes has hammered McConnell on the comment, which McConnell said “got lost in translation.”
Bevin told supporters increasing the minimum wage will cost jobs, that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) should be repealed and gave four things he wants to see enacted if he’s elected: term limits; a balanced budget amendment; a permanent ban on earmarks; and the requirement that any laws passed by the Congress must apply to its members.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.