Just days ahead of a key Kentucky GOP primary, Mitch McConnell cast a symbolic vote against auditing the Federal Reserve -- the issue that is most closely associated with Ron Paul, whose son Rand Paul has surged past McConnell's preferred candidate, Trey Grayson.
With that vote, McConnell, who effectively founded the Kentucky GOP, passed up a prime opportunity to show home state Republicans that he and Grayson are both willing to battle entrenched interests in Washington, political activist Grover Norquist said.
"Mitch McConnell is a surprise. I don't understand what went on," Norquist told HuffPost after McConnell voted against an amendment put forward by Louisiana Republican David Vitter that was a Senate version of a measure sponsored by Ron Paul in the House. "And for crying out loud, he's trying to elect a guy who's running against Ron Paul's son. This would've been the way to go: 'Well, we disagree on, say, occupying Afghanistan for the next 500 years, but we can agree on auditing the Fed. I just thought it would have strengthened your case, not the other way."
A McConnell spokesman, asked about the vote, noted that McConnell had voted for a compromise audit put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Paul, however, pushed the Senate to go further and Norquist said his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, will only be scoring the vote on the Vitter amendment. McConnell gets no credit, in other words, for voting for the weaker version, which passed 96-0.
A Rand Paul spokesman said that Paul would have voted for both amendments, but declined to comment on how McConnell's vote reflected on the race.
McConnell, for months, has been quietly support Trey Grayson in the GOP primary but recently came out of the closet, declaring his support in public. Paul's support has continued to surge. Once a longshot, the most recent survey has him blowing by Grayson by 16 points, his biggest lead of the race.
McConnell's vote only solidifies the impression that Senate leadership is out of touch, said RedState.com blogger Erick Erickson, who's backing Paul in the primary. "Republicans in the Senate have decided they're smarter than the people back home," he told HuffPost.
Erickson's traveled a windy road with the Paul family. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he banned Ron Paul followers from commenting on the blog, fed up with their boisterous evangelism of Paul in every comment thread, regardless of the topic.
But Erickson was perked up by the Fed bailout of AIG and its aggressive interventions in the market and fully backs an audit. "I was never big into the audit-the-Fed thing, thought it was Ron Paul nuttiness, but frankly I think they made a case," said Erickson. "God bless him. He was actually on to this."
McConnell, however, is not. And a spokesman for Grayson has yet to comment. With the primary set for Tuesday, now is not the time to anger the GOP base. "The people paying attention to [the Fed audit] issue are some of the most fired-up people right now," said Erickson.