Mitch McConnell hires Ron Paul aide

September 13, 2012

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has chosen Jesse Benton, the chief strategist behind Ron Paul's presidential campaign, to lead his own reelection bid.

"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."

It's a very early move for an election two years away in a likely safe seat, a sign of how seriously McConnell takes the possibility of a tea party challenge. It's also a bit curious given recent history.

Benton worked for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in 2010; McConnell backed Paul's primary rival, Trey Grayson. Benton comes from grassroots advocacy; McConnell is the consummate establishment pol. 

But Paul and McConnell have developed a working relationship and the tea party-tied freshman is backing his older colleague in 2014. And in a resignation letter from Paul's advocacy group, the Campaign for Liberty, Benton explained why he's moving on, saying he's learned that "my passion lies in direct electoral politics."


Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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Rachel Weiner · September 13, 2012