Update: Sen. Mitch McConnell beat tea party-backed businessman Matt Bevin in a landslide, 60 percent to 35 percent, in the May 20 GOP primary.
Here’s the background: Conservative outside groups had high hopes they could take out Senator McConnell – the most powerful Republican in the Senate and a paragon of the GOP establishment – but Mr. Bevin ran into problems early and never recovered. Examples: A letter from 2008 surfaced showing he had supported TARP bailouts, even though he was now criticizing the program. Bevin also spoke at an event where illegal cock fights were taking place – more bad optics.
In addition, McConnell benefited from the support of Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, a tea party hero.
But Bevin’s candidacy still mattered, because he forced McConnell to prove his conservative bona fides while preparing for a general election challenge from the left.
Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, is seen as a strong opponent. McConnell’s primary forced him to run to the right during the primaries, but it also warmed him up for the general, and so the competitive GOP primary may end up helping him against the Democrat.
During the primary campaign, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore crystallized the senator's challenge: McConnell has "fought off multimillion-dollar attacks from both sides, simultaneously, for over a year."