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."