In the last minutes of an energetic, contentious campaign, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the man who tried to unseat him, Matt Bevin, offered closing speeches that largely matched the preceding six months.
McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao wave to a crowd of campaign supporters. (REUTERS/John Sommers II)
Bevin, as tradition dictates, went first. He’d already called McConnell to concede, but that appeared to be as far as he was willing to go in embracing his former opponent. During the speech, Bevin said only that he had “no intention of supporting the Democrat platform.” When asked by WHAS-TV reporter Joe Arnold after the speech if he would vote for McConnell, Bevin said he’d have to see who was on the ballot. (Besides Grimes, that is.)
With his family around him (him, choked up; his wife crying) Bevin told his supporters to take the high road despite the false attacks from his opponent. Politico’s James Hohmann quoted Bevin: “If we return fire for fire, then we will burn our great nation to the ground. And we deserve better than that.” At the end of the speech, Hohmann notes, Bevin encouraged the crowd to introduce themselves to someone nearby they didn’t know.
The content and tone of McConnell’s speech were obviously different, but so was the presentation. His wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, welcomed the audience, then introduced the man who would introduce McConnell: Sen. Rand Paul, piped in by video. As Paul spoke, stepping over the audience’s applause as happens in recorded presentations, he made a case that the candidate would echo. Elect Mitch McConnell in November, and bring Kentucky the leadership of the Senate.
McConnell arrived at the podium to Toby Keith’s somewhat incongruous “Made in America.” Never a fiery speaker, McConnell walked through the case for his candidacy, repeatedly referring to Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes as President Obama’s pick for the position, and critiquing the administration’s positions on jobs, and coal, and everything else. He asked the audience to applaud Bevin, saying that his challenger had made him a better candidate.
There was only one slight hiccup in an otherwise polished presentation. Ten minutes into the general election campaign, McConnell twice referred to Grimes as “he.” Old habits die hard and all of that, but it wouldn’t have been McConnell without some however-tiny thing going a little bit off script.