Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) received a lukewarm reception from conservatives gathered for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, despite delivering a speech full of conservative red meat.
The Senate minority leader's address came as he faces a fierce primary challenge from his right flank and frustration from conservatives with his role in a number of contentious policy debates this year, most recently his vote to raise the debt limit.
He arrived on stage accompanied by retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), whom he thanked for his service to the movement with the gift of a rifle — and framed the rest of his speech as an homage to the "truths" Coburn has told during his time in office, and pledged to make the Senate a place Coburn would "be proud of" if he's the Senate majority leader next year.
But despite frequent attacks on Democrats, his address received only scattered, polite applause.
McConnell jabbed at Obama for “treating our Constitution worse than a placemat at dinner,” a line that received appreciative laughs from the crowd.
He knocked Democrats on the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of conservative organizations, pledging to “fight this thing with everything we’ve got,” and charged that “President Obama and the Democratic Senate have literally failed working families.”
One of his sharpest jabs, against the media, fell flat.
"They’re too busy trying to fix Benghazi for Hillary, or playing defense for Harry Reid’s latest smear campaign," he said.
And though he pledged that, if given the opportunity to lead the Senate, "I won't let you down," the crowd again responded with hesitant applause.
McConnell faces a challenge from businessman Matt Bevin in the May primary, and though he's favored to win, he's faced heavy attacks from outside conservative groups. If he advances, he'll face another tough challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes this fall.