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McConnell’s Memoir Bashes Outside Conservative Groups

His antidote to Harry Reid: margaritas

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reflects on past campaigns in his upcoming memoir. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reflects on past campaigns in his upcoming memoir. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There’s no love lost for outside conservative groups in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s new memoir, which hits bookshelves next week.  

The Kentucky Republican, always a political strategist, makes the case in “The Long Game” that he could have ascended to the majority leader position earlier if not for forces like the Senate Conservatives Fund .  

“As more dollars from patriotic Americans rolled in, SCF staff would direct those resources exclusively toward campaigning against the most electable Republicans from the comfort of their town home on Capitol Hill,” McConnell writes, according to excerpts posted by Google Books .  

Matt Bevin, now Kentucky's governor, fell to McConnell in the 2014 GOP Senate primary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Matt Bevin, now Kentucky’s governor, fell to McConnell in the 2014 GOP Senate primary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“[R]eminiscent of what happened in 2010 in Delaware, Colorado, and Nevada, thanks to groups like SCF, we threw away two seats with unelectable candidates, this time in Missouri and Indiana,” McConnell says of what played out in 2012, when Republicans ended up nominating Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, respectively.  

Akin, a Missouri Republican, provoked outrage when he said a pregnancy rarely occurs as a result of what he called “legitimate rape.” Mourdock, the GOP’s candidate in Indiana, said any woman who became pregnant from rape should consider the child a “gift from God.”  

SCF backed Akin after a deadline had gone by that would have allowed him to drop out of the race, and the group didn’t come out favoring Mourdock until after the Indiana primary.  


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The SCF endorsed Matt Bevin for Senate over McConnell in the current majority leader’s 2014 re-election bid. Bevin had a second act, as is often the case in Kentucky, and he is now the governor of the commonwealth.  

“The Long Game” dedicates time to revisiting the 2014 Senate primary and general election, though in the excerpts posted ahead of the May 31 publication date, much of the focus is on Bevin.  

McConnell’s trusted staff and advisers are named throughout, particularly in the case of the 2014 contest, like top political operative Josh Holmes , whom McConnell described as “overseeing things” during the primary.  

McConnell also quotes from what Holmes told The New York Times at the beginning of November 2013 about what was coming.  

“S.C.F. has been wandering around the country destroying the Republican Party like a drunk who tears up every bar they walk into,” Holmes said in that story. “The difference this cycle is that they strolled into Mitch McConnell’s bar and he doesn’t throw you out, he locks the door.”  


Did Bevin ‘Trump’ Conway in Kentucky? Not Quite


The McConnell operation had tried to warn Bevin against the buzz saw that he would face, to no avail.  

“He had no political experience, no familiarity with running for office, and no idea what he was walking into,” writes McConnell.  

“[T]he day he announced, we were on the air with an ad defining him as Bailout Bevin. He’d received a government loan to help rebuild his family’s bell factory in Connecticut, which had been destroyed by a fire, and had written to his clients that he had supported TARP,” McConnell writes. “After he criticized me for my role in passing TARP — a role I was proud of given the cost of not acting — I couldn’t allow the hypocrisy.”  

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, frequently derided by critics as a bailout for Wall Street banks, initially authorized some $700 billion in 2008 to purchase illiquid assets like troubled mortgage-backed securities in an effort to avert a financial collapse.  


After the Meltdown


McConnell writes that he told campaign staff to focus on a goal of winning each and every one of the 120 counties in Kentucky, and to avoid distractions.  

“I had planned to follow that advice myself,” McConnell writes. “And then, in October of 2013, a few rogue Republicans decided to shut down the government.”  

In a section of the book that might have been far more interesting had a supporter of that standoff like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz become his party’s presumptive nominee for president, McConnell recalls the argument against taking a hard line on defunding Obamacare in the fall of 2013.  

And the majority leader uses one of his most often repeated expressions in the process.  

“As we say in Kentucky, ‘There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.’ That lesson was lost here because the first kick had come in 1995 when Republicans, under Newt Gingrich, shut down the government for twenty-seven days over federal spending levels,” writes McConnell. “And all that achieved was injuring our economy, inconveniencing Americans, and hurting our party.”  


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He also writes about the police chase from the gates of the White House to the Capitol complex on the third day of the 2013 shutdown, which ended with a woman named Miriam Carey being shot and killed by Capitol Police.  

“We were asking law enforcement in our capital to protect us, when we were doing little to protect them. And I had had enough,” McConnell writes of his thoughts after the shooting incident.  

There’s plenty more in the book, which publishing house Penguin Random House describes as, “the candid, behind-the-scenes memoir of a man famous for his discretion. For more than three decades, McConnell has worked steadily to advance conservative values, including limited government, individual liberty, fiscal prudence, and a strong national defense.”  

McConnell does not always talk about his childhood, growing up in Alabama and battling to overcome polio, nor does he talk much of his personal life, which might well make for the most interesting parts of the memoir for close observers of the Kentucky Republican.  


Reid: ‘Mitch McConnell and I Are Friends’


For instance, in an excerpt about McConnell’s views on then-Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to allow judicial nominees to be confirmed with fewer votes, McConnell reveals what he did after the day was done.  

He had margaritas with his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.  

“It was utterly depressing to watch what Harry Reid had done to the Senate,” McConnell writes. “The day he’d invoked the nuclear option , Elaine called and asked if I wanted to meet for a late dinner at La Loma. She knew how upset I would be, and when I arrived at the restaurant, she was there waiting for me at a table in the back, my margarita ready.”  

La Loma, a Mexican restaurant on the north side of Capitol Hill near the Heritage Foundation where Chao is a distinguished fellow, has been a favorite of the couple  — dating back to the chicken enchiladas they shared during their courtship.  

Contact Lesniewski at and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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