Did McConnell Call For African-American “Outreach” To Republicans?

Last night Roll Call‘s Meredith Shiner published a report on Mitch McConnell’s obsessive efforts to head off (or undermine) a right-wing primary challenge in 2014 (perhaps, other observers suggest, from Louisville business figure Matthew Bevin, who is being courted by Kentucky Tea Party activists, or perhaps from some other heavily funded direction.

That’s all interesting to be sure, but here’s what caught my attention in Shiner’s story, as part of a general theme of McConnell cleaving unto Rand Paul for protection:

McConnell has shown a special deference to his freshman partner. He has held multiple votes on Paul’s amendments, even though many of them barely attract supporters in the double digits, sometimes at the expense of veteran lawmakers’ proposals. He has repeatedly been among only a handful of Republicans to vote for Paul’s budget alternative. He hired Paul’s 2010 campaign manager. And aides take frequent opportunities to link the two men.

McConnell’s address to the National Urban League, for example, sounded a lot like Paul’s at Howard. According to a source familiar with McConnell’s speech, the leader told the room of black business leaders: “I want to see a day when more African-Americans look at the issues and realize that they identify with the Republican Party.” That message echoed Paul’s at the historically black university.

Yes, McConnell did his own “African-American outreach” speech the same week as Paul’s, though it attracted about one-tenth of one percent of Paul’s media attention. But check out the direct quote above. Sounds like Mitch is standing pat on the GOP’s merits and asking African-Americans to figure it out.

There are a lot of different ways for a guy like McConnell to send valentines to disgruntled wingnuts. But calling for African-Americans to conduct “outreach” to an unmoving GOP is a new one.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.