GOP civil war: Mitch McConnell's Tea Party rival accuses him of "thuggery"

The GOP primary in Kentucky is getting nasty

Published January 23, 2014 3:40PM (EST)

Mitch McConnell                                             (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Mitch McConnell (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has got a big, big lead over his Tea Party-backed primary challenger, Matt Bevin.

Yet according to Bevin, that hardly means the longtime incumbent is going easy on the Republican businessman who's trying to replace him.

In an interview with Politico, Bevin alleges that political operatives who once offered to support him have repeatedly withdrawn their offers. And Bevin thinks he knows why.

“I’ve had people who’ve said, ‘You can use our donor list’ or ‘I’ll come on with the campaign,’” Bevin told Politico. "Then all of a sudden they change their minds."

Bevin says that some have told him they were warned not to go against McConnell and told that, if they did, their job with the Bevin campaign would be “the last job you ever have in this business.”

“It is thuggery,” Bevin says. “It’s literally like something out of Tammany Hall. It’s dusting off Boss Tweed. I say, bring it on.”

McConnell, meanwhile, has made a point of all but ignoring Bevin in his public remarks. Asked by Politico if he'd like to comment on his Republican challenger, McConnell's response was terse and simple: “I don’t.”

More on Bevin from Politico:

Bevin realizes no party leader has ever gone down in a primary; he knows the prevailing wisdom in Washington is that he has no chance, and that his only purpose is to damage McConnell heading into a tough general election against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. No incumbent has a bigger target on his back this year than McConnell — a host of tea party groups and the entire Democratic Party both want nothing more than to defeat him — and Bevin’s performance could go a long way in determining whether the minority leader survives to serve a sixth term and possibly become majority leader.

Bevin credibly invokes a Horatio Alger-like life story on the trail. Grew up on a New Hampshire farm in a family of eight with a single toilet and a wood-burning stove to heat the three-bedroom home. Worked his way through college on an ROTC scholarship and rose to the rank of U.S. Army captain. Self-made millionaire businessman and investor. Father of nine, including four adopted from Ethiopia.

Yet none of those feats could have prepared the 47-year-old, tea party-backed Republican for the self-inflicted endurance test he is currently experiencing taking on McConnell.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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