As Luke Johnson reported earlier Thursday, the latest headache for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) comes in the form of a phone conversation recording, published Thursday by the Economic Policy Journal. In that recording, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton expresses his enthusiasm for all the campaign managing he is doing for McConnell as "holding his nose" -- and not because his office is located in the proximity of a rendering plant or something:
"Between you and me, I'm sorta holdin' my nose for two years, cause what we're doin' here is gonna be a big benefit to Rand in 2016, so that's the long vision," Benton reportedly said, apparently referring to a possible presidential run by Paul.
So, it would seem that "But what I really want to do is position Rand Paul for a presidential run" is Jesse Benton's "But what I really want to do is direct," and McConnell is the means to that end -- and the source of some strenuous disaffection. This is somewhat understandable. Benton's last gig was chairing Sen. Rand's father Ron's 2012 presidential campaign, and it's always been clear that advancing the cause and career of the Pauls is where his passion really lies. Benton's considerable clout within the Pauliverse made him an attractive acquisition for McConnell -- a unity move, intended to bridge the gap between McConnell's long establishment career and the insurgent movement that brought him a new junior senator.
Of course, what's to be done now? Ditch Benton for his discontent and risk the wrath of Paul fans in Kentucky, or suck up the slight and carry on? Well, as Dave Weigel reported, it seems that McConnell's going to suck. It up, that is:
McConnell campaign source tells me the senator backs Jesse Benton, told him "Don't let the bastards get you down."
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) August 8, 2013
(Like my colleague Sam Stein, I am at a loss to explain to you who the "bastards" are in this situation precisely. But hey, piss it, just trust that there have to be some bastards sitting around somewhere, doing their bastardry.)
The McConnell campaign also released a statement, from Benton: "It is truly sick that someone would record a private phone conversation I had out of kindness and use it to try to hurt me. I believe in Senator McConnell and am 100 percent committed to his re-election. Being selected to lead his campaign is one of the great honors of my life and I look forward to victory in November of 2014."
And so they shall carry on. In truth, this is the easy call. While Benton may be holding his nose, he's nevertheless been a solid soldier for McConnell. I still remember Benton's masterful "Public Policy Polling is being secretly controlled by Barack Obama" fundraising gambit, which while wholly detached from reality, still seemed like a pretty effective way to get the GOP base all het up and predisposed toward sending some folding money McConnell's way. Benton may not particularly like McConnell, but it seems like they've decided to get by.
Besides, he really has no choice. If McConnell got rid of Benton, upon whom would McConnell rely? The crack campaign team that managed to conclude that Ashley Judd was a liberal with a career in Hollywood who wrote a book that people can read?
[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]