By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, was re-elected Republican Minority Leader by his Republican Senate colleagues on Wednesday.
McConnell has been Minority Leader since 2006 but has twice been thwarted by American voters in his longtime wish to become Majority Leader of the Senate.
“I am honored that my colleagues once again supported me and invested their trust in me to lead the team as Republican Leader for another two years,” McConnell said in a statement released by his press office.
Both in 2010 and again in the Nov. 6 elections, Republican hopes to wrest the majority from Democrats failed, in part due to unexpected primary wins by more conservative Republican candidates affiliated with tea party groups. In both elections, those candidates went on to lose to Democrats in the general election.
The two most notable examples this year were Republicans Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana.
Akin lost to incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill after a series of controversial statements about rape, abortion and other women’s issues. Before that, McCaskill was viewed as the most vulnerable of the Democratic incumbents on this year’s ballot.
In Indiana, Mourdock upset moderate Republican Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary, then lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly. Mourdock also made controversial comments during his campaign about rape.
In the end, Democrats actually picked up two seats in the Senate to slightly expand their narrow majority.
But Republicans unanimously re-elected McConnell who is widely viewed as an expert on legislative procedures, Senate rules and skilled at keeping his conference speaking with a unified voice.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey nominated McConnell for re-election. Each spoke to the conference on behalf of McConnell’s re-election.
“We have an energized leadership team that is committed to finding solutions to the critical issues facing our country,” McConnell said. “I will also use my leadership post to work on behalf of all Kentuckians to ensure they have a strong voice in the Nation’s Capital.”
McConnell is up for re-election to the Senate in 2014 and has already raised around $7 million for that campaign. In September, McConnell announced he had hired Jesse Benton, the former manager of tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign.
Many saw the hiring as an effort to head off any challenge back home in Kentucky which McConnell might face from the right in his own party.
That possibility has also been a topic of national media since the election, but no one has stepped forward in Kentucky so far to challenge McConnell, either from the right in his own party or from Democrats.
McConnell is the longest-serving Kentucky U.S. Senator. He is the second U.S. Senator from Kentucky to lead his party. Democratic Sen. Alben Barkley of Kentucky was Democratic Majority Leader before becoming President Harry Truman’s Vice President.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.