McConnell announced Thursday that he hired Jesse Benton — the tea party political operative who headed Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential primary race — to oversee a campaign that’s still two years away and still lacking an opponent.
“We’re committed to running a presidential-level campaign in Kentucky, and that starts with a presidential campaign manager,” McConnell said in a statement. “Jesse is literally the best in the business at building and organizing conservative grassroots movements, and I’m thrilled he’s chosen to return to Kentucky to lead my campaign.”
Benton also headed the 2010 race of Paul’s son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. The Bowling Green eye surgeon rose from relative obscurity to win Kentucky’s other Senate seat over major candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties.
McConnell had said he was looking for a campaign manager with experience running and winning races in Kentucky and who had a reputation for unifying people. His choice of Benton drew immediate accolades.
Mitch isn’t stupid. He figures that the only folks that can beat him in 2014 are the Rand Paul Irregulars, and he’s decided the easiest way to get rid of them is to co-opt the hell out of them, starting with Benton.
Now look, I’d love for the Dems to win here, but Mitch muddled through 2008′s challenge from Bruce Lunsford and still won by six points, and that was about the closest race he’s ever had with the most motivated KY Dem turnout in the state in a long, long time. Jack Conway doesn’t want to get spanked again like he did in 2010, and nobody else has bothered to step up yet.
It’s possible he may lose. He’s certainly vulnerable. But what worries me is that the tea party might blow Mitch out of the water anyway and install somebody even worse than Rand Paul, and frankly as much as that might play into the hands of the Dems anywhere else, we don’t exactly have a track record on non-insane Republican senators here.
We’ll see how it shakes out. A serious TP challenge might weaken Mitch enough to beat him, but who will answer the challenge?