LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes ran victory laps Tuesday in Kentucky as they rallied their party faithful to nominate them for a colossal showdown in November that will help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Grimes, Kentucky's Democratic Secretary of State, rolled to victory over nominal primary opposition. And McConnell easily defeated tea party-backed challenger Matt Bevin, who spent $3.3 million in his failed bid to oust the five-term Republican Senate leader.
When he announced his candidacy last summer, Bevin appeared poised to give McConnell the run for his life. But despite the financial backing of outside conservative groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, Bevin's campaign never gained traction. McConnell used high-profile endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association to tout his conservative bona fides.
Bevin characterized himself as the true conservative in the race, hitting McConnell hard for his repeated votes to increase the country's debt and his vote to approve the 2008 Wall Street bailout. But his campaign stumbled early when a document surfaced from Bevin's investment company calling the bailout a "positive development." And Bevin was caught on tape telling a crowd at a pro-cockfighting rally that he thought it was wrong to make cockfighting illegal.
However, McConnell had already shifted into fall campaign mode. He's been attacking Obama's health care law and coal regulations and trying to link Grimes to the president, who is deeply unpopular in Kentucky. Grimes, meanwhile, has been portraying herself as an "independent Kentucky woman" at recent campaign stops in what could be an attempt to woo scorned GOP primary voters.