LEXINGTON — They call it the Lincoln Day Dinner, but when Kentucky Republicans gathered Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency, it was mostly about Mitch McConnell.
Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama.
McConnell was the star attraction, and he didn’t disappoint the 300 Republicans on hand — or at least most of them. Spotted in the crowd were some associated with the tea party, including Louisville businessman Matthew Bevin who has been mentioned as a potential 2014 primary opponent for McConnell.
Even with no announced Democratic opponent yet, McConnell made clear his 2014 election strategy: make President Barack Obama the opponent.
A campaign web video preceded McConnell’s speech and he showed another during his remarks, this one focusing on the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking non-profit status. It is filmed in dark, foreboding light, raises alarms about the IRS controversy and even features a brief shot of Richard Nixon.
McConnell then told the crowd his 2014 race will be the most significant election in America and Democrats “would like nothing better than to take me down.”
But he pointed out that Obama only carried four Kentucky counties in 2012 and promised to win in 2014 and “go back and be Barack Obama’s worst nightmare for the last two years of his presidency.”
He said after the 2008 election, Obama and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress passed “a trillion dollar stimulus” (actually about $800 billion) which McConnell went on to blame for the poor economy.
Things got better in 2010, he said, when voters gave Republicans control of the House and his own party made McConnell the Minority Leader.
McConnell said Obama has “created a depression in the coal-fields,” and the man Democrats call the “chief obstructionist” called Obama “a very divisive president.” He pounded Obama on the IRS and the administration’s “arrogance of power.”