The fact that Republican Party county chairman are afraid of going on the record is another indication that McConnell is threatening Republican activists with retribution, just as he did to those supporting Governor Fletcher against Anne Northup in the spring. If the Louisville liberal continues these tactics, he can rest assured that his fate will be similar to Anne Northup's come next May.
Sen. Mitch McConnell's close backing of President Bush on immigration and the Iraq war is costing him support among Kentucky Republicans, and, according to some party members, hurting his chances for re-election next year.
He even could face a primary challenge from former Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Forgy, who contends that Mr. McConnell's in-state problems are compounded by job losses to producers beyond America's borders.
“The average Kentuckian feels we are giving away this country with both hands —
jobs are going, essentially the primacy of the people who made this country great is going, and Mitch McConnell is lumped with the Washington types on this,” Mr. Forgy said.
“And the war in Iraq is less troublesome in Kentucky than in many other places, but it is not popular here, and Republican voters see Mitch's views as too close to the president's on the war,” said Mr. Forgy, a Lexington lawyer...
“The immigration issue is trouble for everyone in central Kentucky,” Republican state Sen. Tom Buford said. “The Iraq war is always difficult for all incumbents, even if they support pulling the troops out. It is a no-win situation when elections are at risk.”
A county party chairman who supports Mr. McConnell but asked not to be identified said Mr. McConnell's re-election next year is uncertain — despite the Capitol Hill clout he brings Kentucky — unless he shows the folks back home he understands their distrust of Washington on enforcing immigration laws.
The chairman said he has tried to tell Mr. McConnell that he needs to assure the party's base that he opposes Mr. Bush's immigration bill.
The Kentucky Republican Party, torn by the immigration issue, was further fractured when critics claimed Mr. McConnell had acted behind the scenes to back an ultimately unsuccessful primary challenge by former Rep. Anne Northup against Gov. Ernie Fletcher earlier this year. The Fletcher faction of the state Republican Party is backing the “draft Forgy” campaign.