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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, from Kentucky, departs the Strom Thurmond room after a Senate Republican caucus meeting about the fiscal cliff, on Capitol Hill, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, from Kentucky, departs the Strom Thurmond room after a Senate Republican caucus meeting about the fiscal cliff, on Capitol Hill, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)  

Conservative group ForAmerica targets McConnell in new ad

Photo of Alexis Levinson
Alexis Levinson
Political Reporter

A conservative group is targeting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, running ads attacking him for his lead role in striking the fiscal cliff deal that they say “betrayed conservative principles.”

ForAmerica, headed by Brent Bozell, began running web ads a picture of McConnell between President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, McConnell’s Democratic counterpart in the negotiations. The text asks “Mitch McConnell: Whose side are you on?”

The group is putting five figures behind the buy, which, according to the ForAmerica release, will run on FoxNews.com, the Drudge Report, The Daily Caller and Facebook in Kentucky and Washington, D.C.

“Conservatives have had it with the Republican Party,” Bozell said in a statement. “The party that was once for freedom and limited government no longer exists. We now have two tax and spend parties in Washington.”

“Senator McConnell often talks a tough game and sells himself as a conservative, but his actions speak louder than his words,” Bozell went on. “His role as President Obama’s bag man in the latest fiscal cliff disaster clearly demonstrates that Senator McConnell is more interested in the art of the bad deal rather than standing up and fighting for conservative principles. It is time for conservatives to stand up to politicians in both parties who talk conservative but govern as liberals.”

Two years out from 2014, no Republican alternative to McConnell has yet come forward; at the moment, the only big-name candidate who has expressed interest is Democratic actress Ashley Judd.

But Bozell told reporters at a December press conference that his organization would help mount a primary challenge against any Republican who voted for a tax increase. (ELECTIONS: Charlie Crist briefly visits Democratic Governors Association at BCS title game)

“Conservatives are currently holding Republicans accountable for betraying their principles, and are open to supporting challengers who may emerge,” Bozell told The Daily Caller Wednesday. “Kentucky elected Rand Paul; McConnell should be very concerned.”

McConnell would begin the race with a big fundraising advantage over a primary challenger, and he is evidently taking the possibility of a challenge seriously, having hired Jesse Benton, who managed Ron Paul’s presidential campaign and Rand Paul’s Senate campaign, as his campaign manager.

Bozell said ForAmerica had no immediate plans to target other Republican lawmakers who supported the deal.

“Right now focus is on McConnell as he stepped in to broker a deal that betrayed conservative principles,” he said.

McConnell actually boasts a 95 percent average rating on ForAmerica’s own rating system, the Freedom Meter, putting him among the more conservative Republicans in the Senate, who average a 90 percent rating on the meter. But Bozell said that did not make his role in striking the fiscal cliff deal any less problematic.

“The Fiscal Cliff vote will soon be integrated into the Freedom Meter but, as everyone knows, it only takes a few bad test scores to screw up a decent grade,” Bozell said. “And the deal Senator McConnell cut with liberals is certainly a doosy. Going forward, we hope that Senator McConnell stops cutting bad deals with liberal Democrats behind closed doors and stands up for fiscal discipline and economic growth; if he does so then we will enthusiastically support him.”

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