LEXINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Republican delegates to focus on a single politician: Barack Obama.
McConnell focused nearly all of his speech during Saturday’s Kentucky Republican Convention on opposing the outgoing Democratic president. Not mentioned were any of the potential Republican alternatives, who are embroiled in a nasty fight over delegates heading into a possible chaotic national convention this summer.
“What is the fundamental argument our nominee will make? I think it is pretty much like this: ‘If you are happy with where we are, if you think this is as good as America can do, then Hillary is your candidate. But if you think we can do better, by taking an entirely different path, you should be for me,’” McConnell said, speaking in the voice of the future GOP nominee without saying who that person would be.
Kentucky Republicans selected 25 delegates to the national convention on Saturday, and McConnell was one of them. He urged delegates not to give Obama a third term by electing Hillary Clinton. But McConnell would not say who he would support at a contested convention: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich or someone else. Instead, he criticized Obama for going on a “regulatory rampage.” And he reiterated his vow to not confirm Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, declaring: “This vacancy will not be filled by this president” while Republican delegates stood and applauded.
With no candidate yet obtaining the 1,237 delegates required to secure the Republican nomination, battles are raging at state Republican conventions across the country as they select the delegates to what could be a contested national convention in July. Kentucky’s process for selecting delegates is more tame, since the delegates are nominated by a committee in secret and party rules do not require them to publicly say who they would support.
That makes it difficult to tell if the 25 delegates selected Saturday benefit Trump or Cruz. Kentucky Republicans had already selected 18 delegates earlier this month during a series of state congressional conventions. Nearly all of them have told The Associated Press they are not committed to a candidate.
The delegates selected Saturday are mostly party insiders and elected officials. They include Gov. Matt Bevin and his wife, Glenna; U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, major Republican fundraiser Kelly Knight, the Republican leaders of the state House and Senate and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a one-time presidential favorite whose campaign ended after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses. Paul did not attend Saturday’s convention, but addressed delegates in a video message.
Bevin, like McConnell, did not tell delegates who to support. But he was more pointed in his comments.
“All that glitters is not gold. Look for consistency,” he said, adding: “When you talk about the greatness of America, while many who would tell us otherwise, America is great.”
Bevin’s comments appeared to take some swipes at Trump, whose campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again” and who has been criticized by national party leaders for his inconsistent policy positions. But Bevin told reporters after his speech that his comments were not directed at any particular candidate. But he criticized people for “being easily titillated by things,” blaming that on “the success of reality TV.”
“People, if they are thoughtful, can sort this through,” Bevin said.