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TheDC Interview: Ken Cuccinelli On Making The Senate More Conservative

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

Ken Cuccinelli, the former Republican attorney general of Virginia, is the new president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, the political group known for its frequent run-ins with the Republican establishment.

In a recent interview with The Daily Caller, Cuccinelli reflected on the primary battles this season, his favorite Senate candidates and what it’s like to no longer be a candidate himself anymore.

Cuccinelli — after losing the Virginia’s governor race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe last year — signed up in June to lead the conservative group, which often supports conservative challengers to Republican incumbents.

“Their mission is one I very much appreciate,” Cuccinelli told TheDC. “That being primarily to move the U.S. Senate in a more conservative direction. It doesn’t bother me that sometimes that brings us into conflict with already-sitting Republicans.”

“I think some people are a little more uncomfortable with that,” he continued. “I’ve always been one of those folks who think competition is actually a good thing. And if we’re going to preach it as a party, we need to practice it.”

Conservative Challengers Have Struggled This Year

Over the last year, Cuccinelli’s group endorsed GOP primary challengers to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, among others. Not a single challenger won.

That makes this the first cycle since the tea party movement burst onto the scene that conservatives failed to take out an incumbent Republican senator.

Asked why he thinks all these incumbent senators won, Cuccinelli pointed out that the incumbents did not all win by huge margins.

“At the end of the day, statistically, I think, and now I’m talking in the whole group, it was pretty lucky on their part,” Cuccinelli said of the incumbent victors. “It was a statistical anomaly.”

He argued that these challengers, even though they didn’t win, forced incumbents to talk about issues that matter to conservatives.

“It is hard to argue that the conservative movement is not having success,” Cuccinelli said. “We are moving the debate in a more limited government direction. And in a more rule of law direction, a more conservative direction.”

As Cuccinelli noted, conservatives did take out a high-profile target in the House.

“When Eric Cantor lost, being the only majority leader in history to lose a primary,” he said, “that was pretty, and still is, earth-shattering in Virginia and across the country.”