Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell entered 2014 as one of the most endangered senators for the Republican Party, according to political analysts. But it now looks as though he will easily fend off his primary challenge. And an examination of the reported campaign contributions to him by WNYC and the American Communities Project at American University suggest he may have bridged an important gap in the GOP between the establishment and the Tea Party as he prepares for the fall
Dollar amounts were never going to be an issue for Mr. McConnell against his opponent, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. The question was whether Mr. Bevin could harness the grassroots power of the Tea Party movement to mount a formidable challenge against the five-term incumbent. It looks like the answer to that question will be no, perhaps, in part, because Mr. Bevin couldn’t unite different parts of the Tea Party movement into a single front – especially evangelical voters.
The chart above shows the breakdown of contributions directly to each candidate by people in each of the ACP’s 15 county types. It doesn’t show the dollar amount of contributions (Mr. McConnell with his big fund-raising pool raised much more), but rather the percentage of contributions from each. You can mouse over the bars to see the actual number from each county type. The breakdown above is important to note.
Mr. McConnell’s heavy reliance on the ACP’s Big Cities and Urban Suburbs is not a huge surprise. To a large extent that’s where the big money is in American politics and Mr. McConnell’s position puts him in contact with those contributors across the country.
But notice the figures for the Evangelical Hubs. They are in purple on the map below and you’ll notice a lot of them in western Kentucky.
Not only did Mr. McConnell take in more as a percentage from Evangelical Hubs, he actually received more contributions from them than Mr. Bevin (about 1,400 versus roughly 950) despite Mr. Bevin gathering more contributions overall.
That’s significant because it suggests that, in Mr. McConnell’s case anyway, voters in big evangelical counties did not get behind the Tea Party candidate. Rather, they backed the establishment candidate. In 2010, evangelical communities were part of the group leading the charge against the GOP establishment.
If this trend holds through in other states – Evangelical Hubs going to someone besides the Tea Party candidate – it may mean the influence of the group will be greatly weakened in 2014.