From Hotline On Call at the National Journal:
Prominent social conservative leader James Dobson is switching horses in the race to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) after he misunderstood one candidate’s position on abortion.
Last week, Dobson endorsed KY Sec/State Trey Grayson (R), the establishment favorite to take over for Bunning. He did so because Dobson believed Grayson was better on abortion issues than ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R), who leads some recent polls.
In fact, Paul is pro-life himself. Dobson acknowledged the mistake and blamed GOP officials for spreading false information.
“Have you ever made an embarrassing mistake? I did just that last week. I was given misleading information about the candidacy of Dr. Rand Paul, who is running in the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate. Senior members of the GOP told me Dr. Paul is pro-choice and that he opposes many conservative perspectives, so I endorsed his opponent.”
“I now know that [Paul] is avidly pro life. He believes that life begins at conception,” Dobson said. “He opposes earmarking and supports Israel. He identifies with the Tea Party movement and believes in home schooling. Sounds like my kind of man.”
The switch is the latest blow to Grayson’s campaign, which has been taken aback by Paul’s strength since the race’s earliest days. Grayson has tacit support from Senate Min. Leader Mitch McConnell and many elected GOPers in the Bluegrass State, but Paul has been able to capitalize on a grassroots following. Most polls show Paul with a big lead in advance of the May 18 primary.
McConnell has not formally endorsed Grayson yet, but his top political aides in the state are quietly working behind the scenes on the Sec/State’s behalf. Bunning has endorsed Paul.
Hold on, kids. Yertle McConnell has endorsed Grayson after all. From The Miami Herald:
WASHINGTON — In a rare move, Sen. Mitch McConnell has endorsed Secretary of State Trey Grayson in Kentucky’s Republican U.S. Senate primary.
“I rarely endorse in primaries, but these are critical times,” McConnell says in one ad.
Last month, retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky, issued a surprise endorsement of Paul, calling him the one “strong, principled conservative” and best choice to fill the seat Bunning will vacate later this year. Grayson was once considered a Bunning protégé.
The McConnell endorsement is a continuation of the Tea Party vs. Republican establishment theme that is playing out in GOP primary battles from Florida to California.
Aside from trying to breathe new life into Grayson’s struggling campaign, the endorsement is a sign of just how much McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, has riding on the election.
A Paul win over Grayson would help measure the Tea Party’s clout as a grass roots insurgency powered by disgruntled conservatives who bemoan what they see as an unprecedented expansion in federal government.
It would also force McConnell, the titular head of a dwindled caucus, to work with someone who for many Tea Party members has come to symbolize opposition to the senator’s brand of politics.
McConnell campaigned for re-election two years ago by touting his ability to influence government spending to favor Kentucky as the GOP’s leader in the Senate. But Paul has said he would favor banning all federal budget earmarks, which influential lawmakers use to fund projects in their home districts.
Grayson said he would return the favor from McConnell by supporting McConnell’s efforts to remain the leader of his party in the Senate.