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Inside Politics: McConnell hires campaign manager with Paul history

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has hired some tea party credibility.

The Kentucky Republican has hired Jesse Benton, who steered the presidential campaign of Texas congressman Ron Paul, to head Mr. McConnell's re-election campaign in 2014. Mr. McConnell says he's committed to running a presidential-level campaign, and Mr. Benton's hiring shows he's acutely aware of the need to win support from conservatives. The hire, along with Mr. McConnell's $6 million campaign war chest, could also scare off potential tea party challengers.

In 2010, Mr. McConnell backed Trey Grayson for the state's then-empty Senate seat, but Mr. Paul's son, Rand, won instead — with tea party support. Now a hero of the small-government movement, Rand Paul says he supports Mr. McConnell's hiring of Mr. Benton.

CAMPAIGN

Jay-Z, Beyonce host pricey fundraiser for Obama

President Obama's re-election campaign is getting a boost from pop stars Beyonce and Jay-Z.

The superstar couple will hold a fundraiser with Mr. Obama on Tuesday at a swanky New York nightclub that Jay-Z owns.

Tickets are $40,000, but the campaign says a small donation lands a chance to win two tickets — airfare and hotel included.

Beyonce says in an email to Mr. Obama's supporters that she's a huge fan and will do whatever it takes to help him win a close race.

This isn't the first time the Obamas have teamed up with the A-list couple to promote each other's' causes. Michelle Obama helped Beyonce with efforts to promote global humanitarianism, and the president appeared in a pre-recorded video earlier this month at a Jay-Z event in Philadelphia.

WISCONSIN

Biden plays to younger crowd in Midwest stop

EAU CLAIRE — Playing to a younger audience, Vice President Joseph R. Biden is stressing differences between the presidential campaigns on education, college debt and entitlement programs more in doubt for future generations.

Mr. Biden spoke Thursday to a crowd estimated by local fire officials at 3,000 people on the University of Wisconsin campus in Eau Claire. He stressed the current administration's moves to defray college costs and said Republican Mitt Romney's campaign hardly mentions education "except in a negative context."

It was Mr. Biden's second Wisconsin stop this month, a sign of the state's new importance as an established presidential battleground.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan campaigned near Green Bay on Wednesday.

President Obama was last in Wisconsin in February. Mr. Romney's most recent visit was in August.

NEW YORK

Romneys to make appearance on 'Live' on Tuesday

NEW YORK — The Romneys are visiting Kelly and Michael.

Producers of "Live With Kelly and Michael" say Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and wife Ann will appear on the daytime talk show Tuesday.

The show announced Thursday that the Romneys will stop by the show's New York studio to chat with Kelly Ripa and her new co-host, Michael Strahan, about life on the campaign trail.

It will be the Romneys' first appearance on a daytime talk show during the 2012 campaign.

MASSACHUSETTS

Romney close to receiving intelligence briefings

BOSTON — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is expected to begin receiving regular intelligence briefings from the Obama administration in the coming days.

Senior aides report that the Romney campaign is nearing the conclusion of a required security clearance process. The former Massachusetts governor did not have to request the briefings. They are customary for major-party candidates after their nominating conventions.

With limited intelligence information, Mr. Romney struggled this week to respond in real time to a violent clash in Libya that left four Americans dead, including an ambassador. Before the deaths were confirmed, Mr. Romney mischaracterized the incident in his initial statement and accused President Obama of a "disgraceful" handling of violence.

Mr. Romney has been relying on his foreign policy advisers and published news reports to inform his positions on world affairs.

CAMPAIGN

Pizza shop owner makes habit of candidate-grabbing

The Florida pizza shop owner who bear-hugged President Obama on Sunday is getting an extension on his 15 minutes of fame after power-lifting another politician.

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist became the latest official Wednesday to be embraced by Scott Van Duzer, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound restaurateur who was caught by cameras last weekend lifting Mr. Obama off the ground during the president's visit to Big Apple Pizza and Pasta in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Mr. Crist, a former Republican and current independent, told the Palm Beach Post on Wednesday that he was interested in meeting Mr. Van Duzer, a Republican and Obama supporter who has also bear-hugged television reporter and daytime talk show host Anderson Cooper in the past week.

Mr. Crist, an Obama supporter who spoke at last week's Democratic National Convention, met the pizzeria owner Wednesday afternoon.

"You know what I'm here for," the former governor said, according to Mr. Van Duzer.

Mr. Crist, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 as an independent, is rumored to be considering another run for governor in 2014 as a Democrat.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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