McConnell Campaign Manager: I’m Holding My Nose Working For Him

Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign, isn’t entirely thrilled with his boss:

The campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted Thursday that he remains “100 percent” committed to his boss’ re-election effort after a recording surfaced suggesting otherwise.

Snagging Jesse Benton, a former acolyte of both Ron and Rand Paul, has long been seen as one of the biggest assets for McConnell in his re-election bid, as he seeks to mend fences with conservative voters in the state.

But Benton, now McConnell’s campaign manager for his 2014 re-election bid, sounded less than thrilled by the pairing, according to a recording published by EconomicPolicyJournal.com. Instead, he said he saw helping the Kentucky Republican as a way to boost his former boss’ 2016 presidential hopes.

“Between you and me, I’m kind of holding my nose for two years, because what we’re doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in ’16. So, that’s my long vision,” Benton says in the Jan. 9, 2013 call with Dennis Fusaro, a onetime Paul aide. Fusaro says he recorded the call.

It’s worth noting that Benton’s career has been closely aligned with the Paul family for years. He was involved with Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaign, ran Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign for the Senate, and is married to one of Ron Paul’s granddaughters. When it comes to loyalty, there’s no real question that Benton’s loyalty lies firmly with the Paul family. That’s why it it was so odd when, last year, he ended up being named as the manager of Senator McConnell’s re-election campaign. For the most part, it was a sign of the detente that McConnell and Rand Paul had worked out between themselves.  A large part of that agreement seems to be that Paul would do what he could to prevent a massive Tea Party push against McConnell in 2014 and that McConnell would ensure that the Kentucky GOP establishment didn’t try to push Paul to the side if/when he runs for re-election in 2016. Benton going to work for McConnell was obviously part of that bargain.

Given all of this, it’s not at all surprising that Benton’s primary loyalty remains with the Pauls and not with McConnnell.Whether that means his time on the campaign is about to come to an end is something only time will tell, but given the fact that McConnell still needs to keep up a good relationship with the Tea Party, I’m guessing that he’ll stay.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Quick Takes, Tea Party, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Seems to me that at this point it would be political suicide for McConnell to fire the guy, so he might as well get used to some level of disloyalty. And he had certainly better assume Rand Paul knows everything Benton knows.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    On the other hand, this won’t help McConnell with the Tea Party challenger in his primary.

    And as Josh Marshall points out, this is not good news for anyone who wants to see the Federal government continue to operate.

    “For all his nonsense, since 2010, it’s McConnell who has secured deals several times to prevent congressional Republicans, particularly House Republicans, from running the economy totally off the rails. But now he’s in a fight for his political life at home to prove that he is the ultimate Tea Partier. So anything he goes soft on, like avoiding the shutdown of the entire federal government or preventing the first debt default in US history, will get laser-like scrutiny on the right and perhaps lead to his undoing at home. That could mean losing his primary battle with Bevin – which I agree is quite unlikely but not impossible – or getting so beat up during the battle that he’s too damaged to defeat Grimes next Fall.”

  3. dazedandconfused says:

    Ron tried to form a Libertarian third party for decades, but apparently realized it couldn’t be done. There has been discussion on this site about how our two-party system is all but assured by the nature of our political winner-take-all system, which was created before proportional representation was invented. His Originalist view of the Constitution would seem to be at odds with fundamental changes.

    It’s a shame Libertarians are forced to pick their poison: Either ally with the Christianists, the big-government Hamiltonians, or be gadflies.

  4. Moosebreath says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    “It’s a shame Libertarians are forced to pick their poison: Either ally with the Christianists, the big-government Hamiltonians, or be gadflies.”

    Umm, why? If you are a group who does not fit neatly into either party, and are a rounding error in national elections, what other choices do you think should be available? One can criticize the choices they’ve made, which has historically been to prioritize economic over personal liberties by allying with Republicans, but they’re simply too small to actually steer either party.

  5. dazedandconfused says:

    @Moosebreath:

    They would have more power if they could win seats in the House. It would break down the fire-wall that separates them from their liberal brethren, the Kucinich’s and Wydens, and perhaps they could be more than a “rounding error”.

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    One wonders just what top staffers for Weiner are holding…

  7. Moosebreath says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    “They would have more power if they could win seats in the House.”

    Yes, but that would require them to be more than rounding errors.

  8. rudderpedals says:

    Way to castrate your temp boss, fool. Or is it genius?

  9. David M says:

    The primary challenge to McConnell is definitely a bad thing for the country in the short term. McConnell is more likely to support Tea Party nonsense to keep his seat, and there’s a chance he could be replaced by someone less tethered to reality.

    The only upside to the primary challenge is if the Democrats can win the seat in the general election.

  10. wr says:

    @David M: “The primary challenge to McConnell is definitely a bad thing for the country in the short term. McConnell is more likely to support Tea Party nonsense to keep his seat, and there’s a chance he could be replaced by someone less tethered to reality.”

    Yes, but whatever nutcase replaces him won’t be the Senate minority leader, just a junior senator from a welfare state.

  11. legion says:

    So, it’s not just Republican _politicians_ who have no moral center, it’s the people who gravitate to them & work closest with them that are soulless sociopaths also. Good to know.

  12. Moosebreath says:

    @wr:

    “Yes, but whatever nutcase replaces him won’t be the Senate minority leader, just a junior senator from a welfare state.”

    On the other hand, whoever replaces him as Senate Republican leader is less likely than McConnell to be willing to cut deals with Obama in his last 2 years in office (and with the Senate Democrats as well), and more likely to toe the line of the more radical parts of the caucus that elected him.

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @legion:…soulless sociopaths…

    What a superb description of all those Democrats who spent years enabling and covering up for Feel-em-up Filner. Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, Jerry Brown…

  14. dazedandconfused says:

    @Moosebreath:

    I mistook the “rounding error” comment as sarcasm, due to elections being frequently determined by just one or two percentage points. Do you really think Libertarians could not be 10% of the electorate and gain seats in a proportional representation system of election accounting? That they might gain some if votes for them would not clearly be wasted votes?

  15. Moosebreath says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    “Do you really think Libertarians could not be 10% of the electorate and gain seats in a proportional representation system of election accounting? That they might gain some if votes for them would not clearly be wasted votes?”

    No. I think that they would fail to get seats in countries where a minimum of 5% of votes are required for proportional representation seats. I think they would be extremely lucky to get 2-3% of the votes nationwide. I see no market for people whose message is that the late 1800’s are as close to the Platonic ideal of how the country should be governed.

  16. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    What a superb description of all those Democrats who spent years enabling and covering up for Feel-em-up Filner. Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, Jerry Brown…

    Besides doing a great job governing California, exactly what did Jerry Brown do that was so execrable?

  17. dazedandconfused says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Here’s one piece of data.

    http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/poll/features/201202_fav_paul/slide1.html

    Bear in mind there are both left and right wing Libertarians, if they could get together they might be able to hash out something a bit more intelligent than pure Paulism.

  18. Moosebreath says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Your chart is not showing up for me, so I cannot respond to it.

    However, I think if we ever had proportional representation, a Libertarian Party which threatened to actually take seats would quickly be attacked as opposing Social Security, food inspection laws, highway construction and numerous other very popular things, all of which would happen to be truthful attacks on Libertarian beliefs. As I said, they would be lucky to get 2-3% of the vote.

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: esides doing a great job governing California, exactly what did Jerry Brown do that was so execrable?

    Brown endorsed Filner for mayor, and hasn’t said anything to contradict or withdraw that endorsement. So as long as Brown says nothing about Filner, his last public words on him stand.

    I’m not saying that anyone who doesn’t condemn Filner is supporting him. But those who’ve made a point of supporting him in the past need to take some kind of action to indicate their support of him is over.

  20. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    So, Brown knew that Filner was a creep? Compared to the most of the Republican House plus Republican Senator David Vitter, this seems somewhat minor.

  21. dazedandconfused says:

    @Moosebreath:

    I tend to agree. Where we seem to differ is in our definition of libertarian, and the one I hold encompasses more than Ron Paul and the Koch’s. Ironically, Ron’s originalist view of the Constitution forbids him from suggesting a change to it, and that document contains the the very thing that has effectively prevented more than two parties in this nation for most of it’s history. He is right on some things, but in the way a stopped clock is.

  22. Moosebreath says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    “Where we seem to differ is in our definition of libertarian, and the one I hold encompasses more than Ron Paul and the Koch’s.”

    I am not sure how this relates to what I said, as I don’t think either Ron Paul or the Koches ever specifically attacked food safety inspections or highway construction projects (though I could be wrong). But I’m content to leave it there.