Sunday, August 11, 2013

Nosegate: A Sensational Political Story

James R. Carroll writes for the Kentucky Corier-Journal about the story first reported here at EPJ:
Well, few political observers believed the “humorous” nose-holding picture was all there was to the story, although, for the moment, those observers also wouldn’t say Benton’s Brutus-like move was as fatal to McConnell as it was to Caesar.

But it was a wound nonetheless — and a sensational political story, for a number of reasons.

First, Benton — the campaign manager for Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate race and political director for the 2012 presidential campaign of Paul’s father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul — had tea party credentials when he was hired by McConnell to run his 2014 re-election campaign. The move was designed, in large part, to ward off a tea party challenger and give the senator a greater reach into the tea party movement. It was seen as a deft McConnell maneuver.

Now it looks like McConnell made a pact with the devil. Or Benton did. You decide.

In any case, Benton was no bulwark against the tea party: Meet Matt Bevin, tea party challenger.

Second, Benton not only revealed in the surreptitious recording that he was less than loyal to McConnell, but showed his eye really was on helping Rand Paul in 2016 (it’s not clear whether to help him run for re-election to the Senate or to run for president). Benton’s nose-holding not only said he was not a McConnell convert, but his “long vision” for Paul made him appear to be a tea party mole.

Third, McConnell is known for running a tight campaign ship. And people who work for him are known for being loyal. This incident put a hole in the hull of the S.S. McConnell.

Fourth, it’s not like McConnell was looking so invincible that an episode like this could be dismissed as totally irrelevant. Some polls show the senator is vulnerable in Kentucky. He is fighting Bevin and Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state. He is wrestling with a GOP caucus in the Senate where tea party adherents and more traditional Republicans are splintering over issues like government spending, immigration reform and even how to run the Senate. So this incident is one more McConnell headache.

Fifth, the senator didn’t fire Benton and Benton didn’t resign.

So the nose-holding — now with a handy graphic supplied by McConnell’s own campaign — is going to be fodder for the senator’s opponents. And it reinforces suspicions among some tea partiers that the senator is not their true ally.

Of course, having said what he said, Benton has a bit of a credibility problem advocating for McConnell with the tea party wing now, too.

Most important, Benton has let the cat out of the bag with his boss.

So, assume this morning you are Mitch McConnell. You have stitched up the wound from your campaign manager. What are you going to do now with the guy with whom you have entrusted your political future — not only your re-election but, if the cards fall right for the GOP in 2014, your rise to Senate majority leader?

What, oh what, do you do?

Fire Benton? Well, that’s another day or two of stories and, presumably, deeper problems with the tea party.

Keep Benton? That will make for an interesting working relationship in the midst of the campaign pressure-cooker, sitting across the table from each other, day after day, wondering who might be hiding a dagger in his toga.

It is drama worthy of Shakespeare.

1 comment:

  1. Wenzel, don't be so sensational. A real libertarian would ask - Why is it illegal to pay money for some guy's endorsement anyway? Isn't that what politics is all about?money buys influence and votes. So what if they spent $30,000 on an endorsement. So what if Benton knew about it. So what if he's holding his nose (or pretending to). This is such a gay high school drama story.