Tea Party Sets Its Sights on Mitch McConnell

Tea party vows to defeat McConnell, just as it did Lugar.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to members of the media on Jan. 14, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
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McConnell's campaign has largely ignored Bevin and the tea party critics, preferring to focus solely on tarring presumptive Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, the secretary of state.

Grimes and McConnell entered the year polling within the margin of error of each other, intensifying what was already ripe to be the marquee contest of the cycle.

But tea party activists are betting that the incumbent's indifference to Bevin will begin to change once activists begin swarming the state and outside reinforcements pile up.

[MORE: Mitch McConnell Waging Two-Front War in Kentucky Senate Race]

McConnell's polling advantage over Bevin was 22 points on Jan. 2, according to a Gravis Marketing survey.

Lugar led Mourdock by a similar margin three months before his own harrowing defeat.

But the tea party's veritable accomplishment in that primary was just as swiftly washed away in November, when Mourdock fell to Democrat Joe Donnelly.

Asked about that searing loss and its repercussions, Fettig argues simply that Bevin is a more disciplined, focused candidate than Mourdock and maintains that the entire undertaking was worthwhile.

"It has inspired thousands of conservative activists to action two years later in defeating the leader of the GOP establishment," he said.

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