By Matea Gold
The Washington Post
TAYLORSVILLE, Ky. — Back in Washington, Kentucky's five-term senator, Mitch McConnell, was being hailed for pulling the country from the brink. The minority leader boasted to reporters about his ability to "step into the breach," cutting a deal with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) that reopened the government and headed off a fiscal crisis.
But here in the scenic countryside southeast of Louisville, conservative voters gathered in a meeting hall at the local farm bureau to slam his deal-making as a betrayal — and to consider the bid of McConnell's GOP primary challenger, Matt Bevin, who pledged to be their voice in Washington.
"I don't feel he represents us or that he's, frankly, even in touch with where we are," Bevin, a self-made entrepreneur and affable father of nine, told the audience. "I think these last several days have helped to indicate some of that. There's a certain amount of disdain."
He added, "There are a lot of naked emperors that are parading around in Washington. These emperors need to be exposed."
More than two hours later, the room was still packed and people had their checkbooks out on their laps, ready to back him.
"I went in completely unconvinced," said Taylorsville resident Chris Sullivan, a retired naval officer. "And now I'm going to go work for his campaign."
A tour through picturesque Spencer County, where sod farms and cattle fields bump up against suburban homes, reveals how the Beltway negotiating skills that McConnell touts count against him among conservatives who want to upend the system, not work within it. By forging a compromise, many said this week, the Kentucky senator let down their hopes of using the government shutdown and threat of default as a way to hobble President Obama's signature health insurance law.