As more disappointing primary results for those of us still bitterly clinging to our guns and our Bibles like me continue to pour in tonight, there is now a subplot developing in the Kentucky U.S. Senate race that has national implications for 2016.
Ditch McConnell did beat upstart challenger Matt Bevin tonight, and by a solid margin. However, the 60% of the vote McConnell received is the lowest any incumbent U.S. Senator has received in a Kentucky primary since 1938. McConnell already had some of the weakest general election numbers of any GOP incumbent this cycle, which looks even worse when you consider how pro-GOP the 2014 cycle is shaping up to be this fall. But throw in the fact a primary challenger he out-spent at least 3-to-1 got more than third of his base’s support, and you don’t have to be the second coming of Lee Atwater to realize McConnell is in trouble this fall.
Enter his fellow U.S. Senator from the Commonwealth — Rand Paul.
Several media reports indicated that McConnell marinated himself in the Rand brand down the stretch of the primary, and that barely a day went by that he didn’t find a way to link himself to his far more popular junior wing-man, who endorsed him early on. It’s quite likely McConnell still would’ve defeated Bevin even without Rand’s support, but the race would’ve been much closer. And an even closer primary would’ve weakened McConnell all the more.