Friday, August 9, 2013

'Nosegate' Is Good News for Mitch McConnell's Tea-Party Challenger

Gaffes rarely cause a campaign to unravel. But the revelation that Mitch McConnell's campaign manager privately confided he's "sorta holding my nose" while working for the senator's reelection could still pack a wallop.

The content of Jesse Benton's remark was bad enough, suggesting that even the conservatives on McConnell's payroll don't like him. But the timing was worse: It comes just as the Senate minority leader is trying to extinguish a fledgling primary challenge from the right by Louisville-area businessman Matt Bevin. A serious, sustained Republican rival would not only threaten McConnell's grip on the nomination, it would divert his attention from the general-election opponent many consider his most serious threat—Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

"I think Jesse spoke for Republicans in Kentucky and all across the country when he said he had to hold his nose to support Senator McConnell," said Matt Hoskins, spokesman for the Senate Conservatives Fund. "McConnell's liberal record and his failure to lead on key issues is very disappointing."

Benton made the remark during a private phone call with Dennis Fusaro, who appeared to secretly record the conversation. Fusaro and Benton had worked together on Ron Paul's presidential campaign last year, which Benton managed before moving on to McConnell.

"Between you and me, I'm sorta holdin' my nose for two years," Benton says on the recording, which was posted Thursday at the Economic Policy Journal. He said he hoped what he was doing would be "a big benefit to Rand in '16. That's my long vision." It was a reference to a potential 2016 presidential run by Rand Paul, Kentucky's other GOP senator, who is Ron Paul's son.


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