POLITICS: PennAve

Senate Conservatives Fund pivots from Mitch McConnell foe to friend after Kentucky primary

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Politics,Tea Party,Mitch McConnell,Kentucky,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,Senate Conservatives Fund,Matt Bevin

During the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, the Senate Conservatives Fund has not pulled punches in its quixotic quest to boost businessman Matt Bevin to victory over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The conservative outside group has, in ads and public statements, decried McConnell's "liberal record," accused him of "trying to bully and intimidate conservatives" and claimed McConnell "will do anything to hold on to power."

And as emotions ran high during last year's government shutdown, with Sen. Ted Cruz urging his colleagues to fight to defund Obamacare, SCF charged McConnell was ceding the fight to Democrats. "He would rather fund Obamacare than admit conservatives were right," the group's executive director, Matt Hoskins, said at the time.

But, on Tuesday, shortly after polls closed in Kentucky and it became apparent McConnell would coast to victory over Bevin, Hoskins and SCF unexpectedly — and quickly — pivoted to support McConnell.

"We congratulate Sen. McConnell on his victory and urge Republicans in Kentucky to come together to defeat [Democrat] Alison Lundergan Grimes," Hoskins said in a statement. "We thank Matt Bevin for standing up for conservative principles and giving voters a choice in this race. Now it's time for Republicans to unite for victory in November."

It's unlikely McConnell will welcome the change of heart from SCF, a group he has blatantly and frequently lambasted — and even accused of "giving conservatism a bad name."

“The Senate Conservatives Fund is giving conservatism a bad name. They're participating in ruining the [Republican] brand,” McConnell told the Washington Examiner last year. “What they do is mislead their donors into believing the reason that we can't get as good an outcome as we'd like to get is not because of a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, but because Republicans are insufficiently committed to the cause -- which is utter nonsense.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has assumed a comparably aggressive stance toward SCF and last year urged campaigns against even working with firms that do business with the group.

Likewise, SCF has not shied from hand-to-hand combat with the so-called "Republican establishment" in this election cycle. The super PAC, helmed by Hoskins, a former aide to Sen. Jim DeMint, who now leads the conservative Heritage Foundation, has also thrown its support and that of its donors behind Republican Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Milton Wolf, who is taking on Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in that state's Republican primary.

But SCF was more invested in supporting Bevin than any of its other candidates and spent more than $1 million supporting his campaign through various channels — among them, radio and television ads that violently skewered McConnell.

"McConnell voted to raise the debt limit 10 times, worked with [Vice President] Joe Biden to pass a six hundred billion dollar fiscal cliff tax hike, and sided with Harry Reid to oppose Ted Cruz's effort to defund Obamacare," said a narrator in one SCF radio ad. "Mitch McConnell has betrayed Kentucky's conservative values."

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