Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) campaign supporters reportedly attempted to coerce Matt Bevin (R) into not mounting a primary challenge against the senator, the National Review reported Tuesday.
According to the report, McConnell allies pressed Bevin to stay out of the 2014 race, allegedly offering the Kentucky businessman "political prizes" if he agreed to not run.
The National Review's Katrina Trinko reports:
“Mitch McConnell’s people reached out to Matt for several months through all different avenues trying to convince him not to run,” the adviser close to Bevin tells National Review Online. “They can pretend like they’re not afraid, they can call him a nuisance, but they were desperate not to have him. Because they are scared.”
“First they tried to threaten him,” the source added, “and then they tried to dangle shiny political prizes.”
McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton dismissed the claim, saying that “Nobody from the McConnell campaign or office has ever had a conversation with Matt Bevin about this campaign.”
Team McConnell's alleged threats apparently did little to dissuade Bevin. The tea party-backed businessman, who has publicly mulled a bid for months, is set to announce his Senate candidacy on Wednesday during a tour of the Bluegrass State.
While his candidacy is not yet official, Bevin's campaign has already gone on offense against an early set of attacks from McConnell's team.
“The 2014 U.S. Senate race has barely begun and already it’s the same old Mitch McConnell with nothing but smear tactics and misleading the public about his opponents,” Bevin's camp said in a Tuesday release in response to Benton's claim that the senator's campaign has an "opposition research book [on Bevin] as thick as a college textbook."
On the Democratic side, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced her Senate candidacy earlier this month.
While McConnell's campaign characterized Bevin as "nothing more than a nuisance," others said the tea partier poses a credible threat to the senator.
"Bevin is going to be more than a pesky distraction to Sen. McConnell," University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck told the Associated Press. "[McConnell is] going to have to spend money and time on the primary, and it's clear he'd much rather be attacking Grimes right now."