Can McConnell unify Republicans?

Conservative Republicans are calling for unity in Kentucky, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll get it.

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Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) easily defeated primary challenger Matt Bevin on Tuesday night after an initially hard-fought and occasionally nasty fight. He’s facing a much tougher campaign — the most difficult of his career — in the general, where he’ll face Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and the full might of the Democratic Party behind her.

To gird for that battle, conservatives were looking to mend fences and unite even before McConnell could officially claim victory on Tuesday.

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson, an outspoken McConnell critic who had endorsed Bevin, said he’d be supporting McConnell out of opposition to Grimes.

“So I will proudly support Mitch McConnell. I sent his campaign $250.00 today to help build the general election war chest. People tell me I’m a leader in the conservative movement. Sometimes leading means going where I’d prefer not to,” he said.

And the Senate Conservatives Fund, which invested nearly $1 million on Bevin’s candidacy, thanked Bevin but brushed him aside.

"We congratulate Senator McConnell on his victory and urge Republicans in Kentucky to come together to defeat Alison Lundergan Grimes," said SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins in a statement. "We thank Matt Bevin for standing up for conservative principles and giving voters a choice in this race. Now it's time for Republicans to unite for victory in November."

Madison Project, another national conservative group, called for the same.

But Bevin himself hasn’t indicated whether he’ll go down quietly — if anything, he’s signaled the opposite. When recently asked to sign a letter pledging support to the party’s eventual nominee, he dodged.

On the eve of the primary, Bevin said if he doesn’t win Tuesday, “I don't know how [McConnell] wins in November when he's divided his own party as much as he has."

And on Election Day, Bevin laid his final blow — one that could resonate through the general.

“He is not a conservative,” Bevin said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown.” “He just pretends to be one every six years in order for him to trick his way back into the U.S. Senate. The voters of Kentucky are becoming weary of this."

When all was said and done, Bevin said he had no intention of supporting a Democrat this fall, but he pointedly didn't endorse McConnell either. 

“I have no intention whatsoever in this race or of any other race of supporting the Democrat platform,” Bevin said in Louisville. “There is zero chance that the solution for what ails us is going to come from the Democrat Party.”

Bevin decried being “lied about, boxed out and ridiculed," but did encourage his supporters to refrain from hitting back.

“We must not succumb to being defined by the pettiness of others,” he said. “We must be better than that.”

This post was updated at 9:15 p.m. 

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