Payback among some conservatives continued apace Friday, the fallout from the budget deal that brought the government shutdown to an end this week even as it illuminated the sometimes competing ambitions of Republican factions.
The Senate Conservatives Fund on Friday endorsed a tea party challenger to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican who, along with Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, crafted the deal that ended the standoff that had paralyzed parts of the federal government.
“Matt Bevin is a true conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending, bailouts, and debt that are destroying our country,” the organization’s executive director, Matt Hoskins, said in a statement. “He is not afraid to stand up to the establishment and he will do what it takes to stop Obamacare. We know that winning this primary won't be easy. Mitch McConnell has the support of the entire Washington establishment and he will do anything to hold on to power. But if people in Kentucky and all across the country rise up and demand something better, we're confident Matt Bevin can win this race.”
The ratio of McConnell animus to Bevin appreciation was clear in the advocacy group’s statement, which listed 10 criticisms of McConnell as sharply worded as missives from Democratic opponents. (McConnell’s Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, has been blisteringly critical of McConnell from the left.)
The group said McConnell, who had a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2012, “has a liberal record and refuses to fight for conservative principles.” It also criticized him for supporting government projects for Kentucky and portrayed his budget votes as support for President Obama’s healthcare law.
On Thursday the group endorsed another Senate challenger, businessman Chris McDaniel, who is running for the seat now held by Republican Thad Cochran. Another conservative group, the Club for Growth, also endorsed McDaniel on Thursday. Cochran, who was first elected to the Senate in 1978, has not said whether he will seek another term, and the challenger endorsements were seen as an emphatic shove offstage by the conservative organizations.
The rift between Republicans who agree with the tea party and those who don’t was demonstrated in a Pew Research Center poll released Friday.
Only 3% of tea party sympathizers said they trusted the government to do the right thing all or most of the time. Among Republicans who don’t agree with the tea party approach, that figure was 16%. (Democrats came in at 28%.)
The emotions each group attached to their views about government varied widely, too. A quarter of Democrats and non-tea party Republicans described themselves as “angry” at the federal government; most said they were instead “frustrated.” Among tea party aficionados, twice the percentage — 55% — said they were angry.
A similar gap between tea party and non-tea party Republicans came when each side was asked their views about the IRS. Only 15% of tea party Republicans had a positive view of the IRS, less than half the percentage of non-tea party Republicans. Among Democrats, 65% had a favorable view of the IRS, as did 40% of independents.
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