While several Tea Party leaders in Kentucky have openly called for revolt against Sen. Mitch McConnell after he forged a compromise with the White House to raise taxes — and encouraged a 2014 Republican primary challenger to emerge — several other big names in the movement do not share those sentiments.
Freshman Congressman Thomas Massie has been one of the most outspoken critics of the fiscal cliff compromise — even taking the bold step of being one of nine House Republicans to vote against Rep. John Boehner’s election as House Speaker yesterday — but on Fox News shortly before that vote, he passed on directly criticizing McConnell and said that he won’t face a backlash back home.
“I don’t think (McConnell’s) going to have trouble in the Republican primary,” Massie said. “His race will be against a Democrat, I think, in Kentucky.”
Instead, Massie chose to criticize Sen. Tom Coburn for voting in favor of the tax hike on the wealthy, saying he should have known better.
Phil Moffett, who lost a Tea Party primary challenge for governor of Kentucky against David Williams in 2011, took a similar approach when asked by The National Journal, characterizing McConnell’s maneuvering as “smart.”
“I think he’s playing it smart. The best way to not get beat by someone sneaking up on you is to not get snuck up on. Mitch McConnell’s smart enough to not let that happen,” says Phil Moffett, who, as a tea party candidate, finished second in the GOP primary for Kentucky governor in 2011.
Massie and Moffett appear to be taking the same strategic route as Sen. Rand Paul, who has refrained from any direct criticism of McConnell since his primary victory in 2010, hoping to use the considerable influence and fundraising prowess of Kentucky’s senior senator to their advantage as an ally, instead of creating a potential enemy. Moffett has been widely rumored to be a political candidate again in the near future, perhaps for the open gubernatorial race in 2015.