Strange bedfellows: Liberals, Tea Party team up to oust McConnell

Updated
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

It looks like Democrats are taking a page out of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s playbook.

The Republican Senate Minority Leader once said that his single most important goal was to make President Obama a one-term president. All GOP politicking, McConnell implied, would be aimed not at governing, but at ensuring the president didn’t win re-election. And now, Kentucky liberals seem as single-minded in their focus on beating McConnell, going so far as to work with Tea Party groups to succeed in their 2014 quest.

The strategy is simple. The left wants to bruise McConnell in the primaries and make it easier for a Democrat to win in the general election. The Tea Party wants to nominate one of their own members and catapult their nominee to Capitol Hill.

Shawn Reilly, executive director of liberal political action committee Progress Kentucky, told msnbc.com that his group has been reaching out to Tea Party leaders in the state to see how they can work together. That includes the possibility of paying to run advertisements for Tea Party-backed candidates. (According to federal rules, the PACs can’t directly donate to the candidate.) And liberals are also planning to hold joint protests with Tea Partiers at McConnell events in the state to “make sure he knows the people of Kentucky are united against him.”

“We’re reaching out to Tea Party groups for support on issues where we can agree on,” he said.

And those issues are clear: Mitch McConnell must go.

Sarah Durand, president of the Louisville Tea Party, told msnbc.com that one liberal organization offered to shell out up to $1 million to her group help defeat McConnell. Other Democratic donors and fundraisers—both in and out of the state—have also reached out with offers of monetary support.

Durand understands, of course, that liberals are “salivating” over the idea of helping a far-out conservative win a primary against McConnell, potentially allowing Dems to face off against someone like failed candidates Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock in the general election.

John  T. Kemper, head of the United Kentucky Tea Party, also told msnbc.com that he has received from Democrats who want to donate to one of the grassroots movement’s candidates.

“We have talked to some Democrats that would obviously like to see him go,” said Kemper.

Indeed, McConnell seems to be in trouble. According to a new Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll, just 17% of voters say they’ll cast their ballots for him in 2014. That includes only 34% of Republicans. Meanwhile, 34% of voters are against him, 44% are waiting to see who is running against him, and 6% haven’t made up their minds.

So far, no Republicans have announced that they would run against McConnell, who has the backing of Tea Party favorite Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

McConnell, perhaps worried about his re-election, has tried to shore up support from the far right, recently warning supporters that “gun grabbers” on Capitol Hill are trying to do away with the Second Amendment and has been giving props to Paul.

Durand said there’s legitimate concerns that that the Tea Party might go as far as to vote Democratic if McConnell is the Republican nominee.

“A lot of people say the Tea Party would never vote Democrat. It’s really not true,” she said, adding if McConnell’s the nominee, members of her party will likely vote for another party “or just stay at home.”

Strange bedfellows: Liberals, Tea Party team up to oust McConnell

Updated