Sen. Mitch McConnell decisively shut down a primary challenge to his 30-year tenure as the Republican choice for Senate in Kentucky. The Associated Press called the race for McConnell minutes after the last polls closed in the state Tuesday evening.
McConnell's primary victory over businessman and Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin is a victory for the mainstream GOP among primary races that have at times indicated the party is at war with itself.
McConnell raised more than twice as much money as Bevin, which he used to hammer his rival with attack ads. He also got a boost from his Kentucky colleague Sen. Rand Paul, also a Tea Party favorite.
Even before Tuesday's voting, McConnell's campaign had turned its focus to well-funded Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of State, won her primary Tuesday with little opposition.
McConnell will need to bring Bevin's supporters into his fold as he takes on Grimes, says political scientist Ernest Yanarella of the University of Kentucky. "I suspect the Tea Party may prove to be sore losers. They could very well just sit out the Senate election itself and that would certainly be bad news for him."
McConnell reached out to Bevin supporters Tuesday, telling them in his victory speech that "your fight is my fight.'' But he turned quickly to Grimes, calling her a "partisan's partisan'' and "Barack Obama's candidate.'' Obama is unpopular in the state, which he lost in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
McConnell, who is seeking a sixth term in office, said restoring Republican control of the Senate would "make this president accountable. ... Make me the majority leader and Kentucky will lead America."
In her own victory speech, Grimes said she is "not a rubber stamp and I am not a cheerleader ... I will answer to the people of Kentucky. I won't answer to the president no matter who he or she might be.''
, businessman David Perdue advanced to a runoff, but U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston and former secretary of State Karen Handel remained in contention for the second slot in a July 22 runoff. Democrats nominated Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Georgia senator Sam Nunn, whose name and fundraising strength have given Democrats hope for a competitive race in a traditionally red state.