No sooner had tea party-backed Matt Bevin conceded defeat in the Kentucky primary on Tuesday than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell began to focus his fire on Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes — who will have strong backing from Hollywood liberals, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Bill Clinton.
The critical importance of the McConnell-Grimes race to conservatives was underscored moments after the five-term senator's big (59 percent to 37 percent) margin over Bevin became clear.
The Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project, which both ran spirited independent efforts on Bevin's behalf, issued strong congratulatory statements to McConnell and called for his re-election.
Numerous tea party groups throughout Kentucky also weighed in Tuesday night for the senator they had previously denounced as the embodiment of the "Washington establishment."
Now those McConnell critics realize his defeat would mean one fewer seat in a year when Republicans stand an excellent chance of securing a majority in the Senate — and making McConnell majority leader.
In what is sure to be one of the most-watched races this year, a just completed SurveyUSA poll showed Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, leading McConnell by a margin of 43 percent to 42 percent among likely voters statewide.
Conservatives are rallying to McConnell in part because of the priority the left places on defeating him.
Last August, entertainment industry power broker and DreamWorks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg sent an email urging associates to support Grimes at a private fundraising event in Los Angeles.
"There is no more important election being held next year in this country," Katzenberg wrote. "Alison is the antidote to McConnell and all he represents."
Although Senate leaders of the opposing parties historically don't work against one another in re-election bids, this is not the case with McConnell and Reid, of Nevada.
On June 5, Reid will host a fundraising breakfast in Washington on behalf of Grimes.
"Of course, everybody knows I hope she wins," Reid said of Grimes in an interview with NBC-TV's Chuck Todd.
Grimes, 35 and in her first term as Kentucky secretary of state, frequently invokes the name of longtime family friend Bill Clinton, considered more popular in the state than either Reid or President Barack Obama.
Both the 42nd president and his wife, Hillary Clinton, are expected to stump on Grimes' behalf this fall.
While distancing herself from the current president, Grimes has come close to endorsing Obamacare, saying last August that "we need to find common-sense solutions in moving forward with the implementation."
It seems likely McConnell will hit that statement hard in what promises to be an all-out brawl to retain his Senate seat.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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