Despite opposition from conservative groups, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell handily defeated Republican businessman Matt Bevin in Kentucky’s Republican primary on Tuesday.
McConnell’s victory sets him up for a November showdown with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Secretary of State in Kentucky whose father was once state Democratic Party chairman.
McConnell’s triumph over Bevin was not much of a surprise: Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the Real Clear Politics polling average indicated that McConnell was leading Bevin by 26 points.
On Tuesday, McConnell won with 60.2 percent to Bevin’s 35.4 percent of the vote.
Over the last ten months, a number of national conservative groups endorsed Bevin, including FreedomWorks, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project.
A sign that some of these conservatives will now get behind McConnell, RedState editor Erick Erickson tweeted a photo Tuesday night of his donation to McConnell’s campaign.
Likewise, the Senate Conservatives Fund called for unity.
“We thank Matt Bevin for standing up for conservative principles and giving voters a choice in this race,” the group said in a statement. “Now it’s time for Republicans to unite for victory in November.”
Throughout the campaign, McConnell’s campaign aggressively attacked Bevin, raising questions about his past. McConnell also secured fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s endorsement, something that hurt Bevin’s chance at consolidating conservatives in the state against McConnell.
Democrats, desperate to keep Republicans from winning control of the Senate, are expected to pour loads of money into the general election on behalf of Grimes. Republicans, in order to win back a majority, need a net pickup of six seats in November and can’t afford to lose Kentucky.
McConnell is leading Grimes 44.5 percent to 44 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.
Other states, including Georgia and Oregon, held Republican Senate primaries on Tuesday. Like in Kentucky, the candidates favored by the Republican establishment came out victorious.
In Georgia, the two business-friendly Republican candidates, businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston, were the top two vote getters in the GOP Senate primary, meaning both will battle each other again in a heated run-off in July.
The winner of the July 22 Republican run-off will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in November. A run-off is necessary because no candidate reached the 50 percent threshold during Tuesday’s vote.
Perdue, who has the backing of his cousin former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, took in 30.6 percent of the primary vote. Rep. Jack Kingston, endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, won 25.8 percent.
Last month, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin waded into the race by endorsing Karen Handel, the former Georgia Secretary of State and Susan G. Komen for the Cure executive. Handel won 22 percent.
Two other conservative lawmakers, Rep. Phil Gingrey and Rep. Paul Broun, also ran, taking in 10 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively.
After the results came in, Nunn, the Democratic nominee, went on the attack against Republicans in a fundraising pitch to supporters.
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work even harder heading toward November,” she said. “Because now, with our primary campaign finished, outside forces determined to hold onto this seat will be coming after our campaign. Joining them will be some very big money – and whether it is the Koch brothers or Karl Rove, they are hoping to perpetuate the current dysfunction in Washington.”
Perdue is leading Nunn 42.3 percent to her 39.3 percent in polls. But if Kingston is the Republican nominee, according to the RCP polling average, Nunn leads 42.3 percent to Kingston’s 39.8 percent.
In Oregon — where residents vote by mail — doctor Monica Wehby, who had the backing of Republicans like Mitt Romney, defeated State Rep. Jason Conger in the state’s Republican primary. Wehby won 50.7 percent of the vote to Conger’s 37.2 percent.
Wehby goes on to face Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley in November.
Her victory comes after several days of stories about past disputes with an ex-husband and boyfriend. Republicans on Tuesday said those stories are evidence of Democrats fearing Wehby making the state competitive in November. A Vox Populi/Daily Caller survey done in April shows Wehby leading Merkley 45 to 41 percent.
“It’s not a coincidence that shortly after a poll showed Dr. Wehby leading Jeff Merkley, the Democratic machine went into overdrive, viciously attacking her personal life in the ugliest way,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran.