Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager says in a telephone conversation taped earlier this year that he is “holding my nose” while doing the job, a less-than-flattering remark about a powerful GOP establishment figure struggling to shore up tea party support at home in Kentucky.
Benton said during the phone call that he thought helping McConnell's 2014 re-election effort would be "a big benefit" to Senator Rand Paul in 2016.
Paul, a Bowling Green Republican, is often mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate.
In a brief telephone interview Thursday, Jesse Benton didn’t dispute the authenticity of the taping, saying he wasn’t confirming it was him, but wasn’t denying it either.
Separately, in a statement emailed to reporters, he said he believes in McConnell and is 100 percent committed to his re-election.
An audio of the Jan. 9 conversation was posted online by Economic Policy Journal. It said the call was placed to Benton by Dennis Fusaro, a one-time aide in former Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.
Democratic Senate front-runner Alison Lundergan Grimes has portrayed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as being a chief Republican obstructionist as the rivals shared the spotlight at Kentucky's premier political event.
Grimes, Kentucky's 34-year-old Secretary of State, accused McConnell of being a part of the "disease of dysfunction" in Washington, and blocking legislation just to spite the White House.
"If doctors told Senator McConnell he had a kidney stone, he'd refuse to pass it," said Grimes.
McConnell touted his Senate leadership and ignored Grimes, aiming his criticism at President Barack Obama. Both candidates in next year's Senate race spoke at the Fancy Farm picnic on Saturday in western Kentucky.
McConnell told a raucous crowd that Obama's health-care law is a "disaster", and said he will focus his campaign on the damage the President's policies are having in the Bluegrass State.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, up for re-election next year, will share a stage Saturday afternoon with his top challengers at the always raucous church picnic known for spicy barbecue and even spicier speeches.
The event — a holdover from the days before television, when politicians had to seek out crowds to solicit votes — draws thousands of people each year to the tiny western Kentucky community of Fancy Farm and is considered a must-attend for politicians.
It will provide voters the first side-by-side comparison of McConnell and his foes — Republican primary opponent Matt Bevin and Democratic front-runner Alison Lundergan Grimes — in a charged political climate with the candidates taking turns trying to shout their speeches over jeering hecklers.
"From a purely political standpoint, it's a test for candidates," said Greg Higdon, a former state senator who helps with the picnic, now in its 133rd year. "There have been some politicians who have handled it better than others. It's not easy. I know it's tough."
A political action committee supporting Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator has raised $1.2 million since its creation in April.
Major donors to the pro-Mitch McConnell Super PAC called Kentuckians for Strong Leadership include Donald Trump, who has given $50,000, and deceased mega-donor Bob Perry, who gave $100,000. The information was found in the PAC’s most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Perry’s donation is listed as having been made June 3, which is almost two months after he died. The PAC’s treasurer told the website Politico that the wrong date was recorded due to a clerical error in the filings.
Kentuckians for Strong Leadership has so far spent nearly $400,000 in media ads supporting McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign.
Though the election isn't until next year, the campaign is in full swing. TV ads have been running for weeks already.
One of the Fancy Farm organizers, Mark Wilson, said Bevin was confirmed as a speaker after he announced his candidacy on Wednesday. Two of Kentucky's highest-profile Democrats, Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, won't attend the event.
The political speeches are part of a church picnic that doubles as a fundraiser for St. Jerome Parish. The annual event typically draws some 10,000 people and generates about $250,000.
Political newcomer Matt Bevin has declared the time has come for Kentucky voters to oust Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
Bevin criticized McConnell at a Frankfort press conference Wednesday for being a part of "the politics of failure" for nearly three decades. And Bevin offered himself as the alternative, describing himself as a man of the people, having grown up in a farmhouse with wood stoves for heat, a garden for vegetables, and land that provided assorted animals for meat, milk and eggs.
The Louisville investment adviser charged that McConnell "has lost touch with our state, its people and our values."
Meanwhile, the McConnell campaign released a new TV ad charging that Bevin accepted a $200,000 taxpayer bailout for companies he owns in Connecticut. The ad calls him "Bailout Bevin."
Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator is trying to reach out to Tea Party groups as he seeks another six-year term in Washington.
Mitch McConnell needs to shore up support on the Republican right in order to fend off a primary challenge next year. Sen. McConnell knew he would have a challenge from Democrats in 2014. What he was hoping to avoid was a primary challenge from a fellow Republican.
But that’s exactly what he has now, following Louisville investment advisor Matt Bevin’s entrance into the race. Bevin is officially announcing Wednesday that he will seek the GOP Senate nomination, creating a primary fight for McConnell.
McConnell isn't taking the news lying down.
Politico reports McConnell played host to the Tea Party caucus Tuesday in Washington, at a celebration honoring the birthday of former Senator Bob Dole. McConnell has had a strained relationship with the Tea Party, at first largely ignoring the movement, and then trying to mend fences when the Tea Party showed it had become a major powerbroker within the GOP.
In addition to fighting off Democratic challengers, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell will also have to to defeat at least one fellow Republican next year.
An aide to Louisville businessman and Tea Party activist Matt Bevin distributed a news advisory Tuesday announcing stops on a statewide tour announcing his candidacy for Senate.
Bevin's entry into the race could force a shift in the McConnell campaign, which had been concentrating entirely on Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's 34-year-old Secretary of State.
The move by Bevin to challenge McConnell reflects a splintering of the tea party movement in Kentucky. Many activists, including Kentucky's junior U.S. Senator, Rand Paul of Bowling Green, have already pledged their support to McConnell's 2014 re-election efforts.
Not All Tea Party Groups Think Alike Re: McConnell in '14
McConnell’s re-election effort is highlighting divisions between some Kentucky tea party organizations, and national tea party groups backing the U.S. Senate Minority Leader.
The U.S. Senate Majority Leader is making some jokes at the expense of Kentucky’s senior Senator.
Democrat Harry Reid, speaking Monday at a gathering of the pro-Obama group, Organizing for Action, said Mitch McConnell "tried to make love to the tea party, and they didn’t like it.”
Reid and McConnell have been at odds recently over the GOP’s use of filibusters to prevent some of President Obama’s executive branch nominees from receiving confirmation votes.
Reid’s comments about the Tea Party and McConnell come as speculation mounts about a possible Republican primary challenge against the GOP Senate leader. Some in the Tea Party have criticized McConnell for not being sufficiently conservative on fiscal issues.
Democrats are responding to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell’s criticism of President Obama regarding veterans’ disability claims. Speaking Monday in Louisville at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, McConnell said the backlog of more than 816-thousand disabled veterans who are seeking benefits is a “national disgrace.”
Kentucky’s senior Senator said the President should get involved to clear the medical claims backlog, adding “veterans should be able to count on their commander in chief.”
But the Courier-Journal reports the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly shot back at the U.S. Senate Minority Leader, saying that McConnell’s obstructionism is to blame for the problem. The group pointed out McConnell voted against a V.A. appropriations bill that included a plan to address the heavy backlog of veterans’ medical claims.
According to Congressional Quarterly, McConnell was one of six Republican Senators to vote against a House measure that included funding designed to clear the backlog.
A spokesman for McConnell says money isn’t the issue, pointing out that the V.A’s funding has increased 40% over the past four years.