WASHINGTON -- Matt Bevin, the Kentucky Republican hoping to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2014, on Tuesday challenged the senator to prove his conservative credentials by signing a pledge to repeal Obamacare.
McConnell is not among the 12 Republican senators who have signed the online pledge being promoted by the Senate Conservatives Fund. Those who sign the pledge agree to try to fully repeal the health care law and oppose any legislation that provides funding to enforce or implement any part of it. The website also keeps a running tally of which senators, and which 2014 candidates, have signed on.
In a statement, Bevin criticized McConnell for voting for a March 2013 continuing resolution that included funding for Obamacare. He also accused the senator of "working behind the scenes" to stymie other Republicans' efforts to defund the law. On that front, McConnell declined to take a position Tuesday when asked if he supported conservative efforts to block a government-funding measure unless it defunded Obamacare.
"Mitch McConnell's rhetoric on defeating Obamacare is nothing but empty promises," Bevin said. "I challenge Mitch McConnell to join me in signing the pledge to defund Obamacare. Instead of playing political games, it's time to stand up for the people of Kentucky."
McConnell campaign spokesman Jesse Benton smacked down Bevin's claims and said the senator has been leading the charge for repealing Obamacare, though he didn't say whether McConnell would sign the pledge. Benton also raised questions about Bevin's credentials.
"When Senator McConnell became the first lawmaker to launch coordinated opposition to Obamacare back in 2009, political opportunist Matt 'Bailout' Bevin was busy racking up tax liens on his business and million dollar New England vacation home," Benton said. "There isn't a single member of Congress who has fought Obamacare harder or longer than Mitch McConnell and he has repeatedly said if he has the opportunity to defund or repeal the law he will not hesitate."
It's early in the 2014 campaign season, but McConnell is already facing challenges for his seat. Bevin announced his candidacy last week and has already picked up an endorsement from at least one conservative group. He's also gotten the attention of the Club for Growth PAC. Meanwhile, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) announced last week that she would be running too.
McConnell is still comfortably ahead in the polls. A survey last week by Wenzel Strategies put McConnell ahead of Bevin by almost 40 points -- 59 percent to 20 percent -- among Republican primary voters.