Rand Paul

Can Jesse Benton Bring Together The Paul and McConnell Wings of the GOP?


Katrina Trinko at National Review profiles former Ron and Rand Paul campaign bigwig Jesse Benton, now working for Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, and speculates about what it means for cross-GOP unity.

Some excerpts:

John Tate, president of Ron Paul's organization Campaign for Liberty, says it's possible Benton could help persuade some tea partiers to vote for McConnell. And it doesn't hurt that Rand Paul himself has endorsed McConnell. "I think there are those in the liberty movement that are willing to maybe follow Rand's lead or others' and give [McConnell] a second look," Tate, who worked closely with Benton on Ron Paul's presidential campaigns, says. But "there are those that will never give him a second look," he adds.

Benton himself argues that McConnell, who received a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, is a serious conservative. "Back in the Nineties, when I was reading National Review in my college dorm, Mitch McConnell was the cool conservative senator," he says. "He was like the Tom Coburn back then. He had a little maverick in him, and he took strong conservative stances, and he filibustered stuff."…

And Benton sees his work for McConnell as serving the cause: He's motivated in part by the idea of uniting the various factions in the GOP to achieve policy goals. "It's a really, really important mission to bring all Republicans and conservatives together," he says earnestly. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell's partnership, he explains, is an example of how to do that.

"They both have tremendous cross-party appeal, but they each tend to draw their core of support from a certain wing of the party," Benton says. "When they come together and help each other with the crossover support from across the party, I think it sets an example to Republicans across the country about how it can be. We can disagree on some things, but still really work together."

Now, McConnell has made some stands that will make it easier for Rand Paul people to love him–voting for Rand's super-budget-cutting plan (five-year path to balanced, $2.3 trillion in tax cuts), joining him on hemp legalization, and audit the Fed (after being against it in 2010), some pet causes for Paul folk. This has given Paul cover for being on McConnell's side against his Tea Party primary challenger Matt Bevin.

But as this old thread from Daily Paul (Internet home of many of the hardest of Paul hardcore) reminds us, McConnell's been grim in his career on issues of Patriot Act and domestic civil liberties and hawkishness in the war on terror, bank bailouts, No Child Left Behind and Medicare expansion, and semi-automatic weapon bans.

McConnell did give support to Paul's drone filibuster, and voted this week for Paul's end-Egypt-aid bill, despite his usual rep, as Foreign Policy puts it, of being a "typically orthodox voter on foreign policy issues." He's been willing to at least say he'd consider some defense cuts. 

Benton's power to create any Paul-McConnell activist alliance is questionable–he was never a favorite of the more hardcore and Internet-noisy of Ron Paul fans. In fact, many saw him as a sellout traitor, a burden Benton bore, in my experience covering the Paul campaign for my book Ron Paul's Revolution, with a decent amount of public grace but a lot of (understandable) private annoyance, which sometimes became public.

So it's going to be down to Mitch to convince them he's on their side. And it will be difficult for them to be convinced his instincts are true-blue and reliable on liberty issues–especially if he ends up majority leader again and becomes enmeshed in the ol' political art of the possible. (For example, the switch on "audit the Fed" is easy to read as just a "who the hell cares?" gesture of "no reason to make these Paul people mad at me for something I don't think is that important anyway.") 

In this read, Rand Paul's very public ascendance will make a politician like McConnell more willing to go along with him, something that could be very important indeed for Rand's future career if McConnell is again majority leader of the Senate–it's good for a senator to have good relations with someone in that position. But again, it's likely that such leverage will come not from turning McConnell into a true believer, but turning Rand into a political force hard to ignore or oppose.


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  1. If McConnell is willing to support more freedom, why should it matter if he’s willing to do so out of conviction or expediency?

    1. My feelings too. If he actually supports freedom come vote time, it doesn’t matter to me why. Like every politician, your must keep him under a tight watch though and if he falters, throw him out (I know I know, only in dreams are pol’s actually held to some standard or else voted out).

      1. That’s the problem. If he is doing it for expediency then he is probably going to turn on us in the future. And it’s a 6 year term. He had his chance to be pro-liberty and, like most senators, he blew it. Time for someone else.

      2. You only get an opportunity to throw him out once every six years.

        He’s demonstrated time and time again that he’s not to be trusted, so he needs to go. It’s unfortunate for Minority Leader Turtleface if he’s turned over a new leaf, but that’s the way it is.

        1. Wow….when you stay on the medication you begin to make a frightening degree of sense!

          1. I’d let the bots be the judge of that.

        2. When you lose Tulpa, you lose the GOP entirely.

        3. I agree, it would take more than a few token gestures to get me to vote him in again.

      3. By the way, when I said “come to vote time”, I meant when it comes to how he votes on legislation.

    2. Because expediency will reverse direction once he survives the 2014 primary and needs to focus on pleasing the GOP elites rather than his constituents.

    3. This is true. I care a lot more about how pols vote than what they say.

      It’s sort of like Uruguays recent legalization of weed. Even though they probably did it for all the wrong reasons, it’s still a huge nut-punch to the WOD, so it’s a step in the right direction.

    4. Yeah this article doesn’t really make sense. They quote from Trinko who says “Hey, this guy might start bringing the party together.” The response is “Well McConnel isn’t libertarian.”

      WTF? Of course he isn’t Libertarian. So what? The fact is, the GOP is fractured. What do you expect the Pauls to do? Continue in-fighting until the Democrats get full power?

  2. Benton was a terrible campaign manager. He had a gigantic warchest to work with, which was absolutely not of his own making, yet couldn’t leverage that into any real impact on the actual elections. So after proving he couldn’t win an election fair and square, he tried the trickery of the “delegate strategy”, the point of which was never clear — even if everything had gone perfectly and there was no resistance from the establishment GOPers, the best it could accomplish was getting RP a speech at the convention — and of course the delegate strategy fell flat on its face when the establishment responded to parliamentary trickery with its own parliamentary trickery.

    But he’s married to RP’s granddaughter, and we all know about the old man’s nepotism. So he never had to worry about job security.

    And if you think McConnel’s “true conservative” bona fides are going to last 5 nanoseconds after he wins the election in 2014, I’ve got a bridge in Utopia Planitia I’d like to sell you.

    1. The delegate strategy was not parliamentary trickery. It’s the actual, legitimate system for how the GOP selects its candidates. Most people had and still have no idea how delegates are chosen, and that’s by design. The party leaders want to be able to hand-pick their candidate, so they created a Rube Goldbergesque system that they can manipulate without anybody understanding what they’re doing. Anybody who tries to play by the cockamamie rules they concocted is an illegitimate interloper.

      Consider this: If we need to throw out a few votes from Waldo County, Maine, so what? The actual vote doesn’t matter. It’s the delegates. If we need to unseat Maine’s elected delegates, so what? That’s an arcane and probably illegitimate system. Let’s kick down that Potemkin village and replace the elected delegates with hand-picked, obedient trained seals. Heads, we win. Tails you lose. That’s democracy!

  3. Regardless of this posturing McConnell has a pretty decent primary challenger coming from the right.

    I just hope Rand finds someone better than Benton to run his 2016 PCC. Maybe hire whatever slimeballs ran Obama’s campaigns.

    1. “coming from the right”

      Is that the “good” libertarian right, or the “bad” conservative right?

      1. He’s referring to Matt Bevin, who is being compared to Cruz. Some of his positions are vague but promising.

      2. Name is Matt Bevin. I think he is putting himself more under the “Tea Party” mantle than libertarian, but he has supported the Constitution Party presidential candidates in the past and has had good things to say about Rep. Thomas Massie.

        Most importantly he is a multi-millionaire businessman, not sure how much of his own money he is willing to spend though.

  4. Love the Pauls, but Benton is a bit of an a-hole. McConnell is engaged in pure political posturing, but that can all still benefit Rand, so whatever.

  5. I love Doherty’s optimism, but forgive me I laughed when I read the title of this blog post.

    Taking established neo-cons seriously is a big problem for the ‘median’ or ‘George Will’ type of Republicans as well as libertarians.

  6. One look at Mitch’s record on gun control puts me in the ‘those that will never give him a second look’ club.

  7. Jesse Benton has the personality of a Warthog. John Tate has the strategic understanding of a stone. The two of them together don’t have the equivalent of even half of a political brain. So, yes, I highly doubt there’s going to be any great “coming together” of the two sides of the party with the McConnell campaign.

    Benton just loves the pay scale but can’t deliver. Getting an endorsement from Tate is similar to having the dumb endorse dumber.

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