A conservative group is launching its first radio ad in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race criticizing Republican Senator Mitch McConnell for his voting record.
Led by former Republican Congressman Jim Ryun, the Madison Project endorsed McConnell’s GOP primary opponent Matt Bevin last month, and is running what they say will be the first of many statewide ads against the incumbent.
It's a relatively small $30,000 ad buy, but the 60-second spot slams McConnell’s votes on immigration reform, Wall Street bailouts and the debt ceiling.
Daniel Horowitz is the policy director of The Madison Project. He says the Kentucky Senate race is about McConnell’s leadership and a larger debate about the GOP at-large.
"We want to have a long-form discussion both about McConnell’s record in Kentucky and also really a discussion over the future of the Republican Party. Is this going to be the party of Reagan, Cruz and DeMint or is this the party of Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell? And it’s about time we had this fight over the future of the party," he says.
The McConnell campaign isn't taking criticisms from the right lightly, however.
It dismisses the Madison Project as a "fringe" group, and points to an internal poll showing the senator leading Bevin among GOP voters by 47 points.
"All you need to know about this group is that they're supporting a tax delinquent bailout artist who lies on his resume over the most conservative Republican Leader in modern history," says McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore. "Apparently Matt Bailout Bevin has a small cadre of fringe friends in Washington who have concluded that conservative governance isn't half as important as making money off his quixotic Senate campaign even though polling shows Mitch winning by a staggering 68-21 margin."
Other conservative PAC's such as Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund have said they are watching the primary battle closely, but have yet to jump in the race.
For the past week, however, Bevin has been dogged by claims that he overstated his educational ties to MIT in a professional profile.
McConnell's polling found those attacks are chipping away at Bevin among conservatives, with 53 percent saying they had a negative response and 39 percent having a very negative reaction. Meanwhile, conservative critics of McConnell want to keep the focus on the issues.
"We all know a conservative does not continue to push amnesty for 28 years, a conservative does not grant the president $2.4 trillion in new debt and a conservative certainly does not pressure members against de-funding Obamacare," says Horowitz. "But that’s what McConnell is doing right now even as he seeks to distract with these silly opposition hits on Matt Bevin."