Former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough said Friday the remarks that Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign manager made about his boss show that their relationship is a "marriage of convenience" aimed at boosting Sen. Rand Paul's bid for the presidency in 2016.
In a telephone recording that surfaced Thursday, Jesse Benton, who managed Mr. Paul's 2010 campaign and former Rep. Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign, told an Iowa conservative activist in January that he was "holding his nose for two years" working for the McConnell campaign "because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in '16."
"What's most fascinating about this and most revealing about this is how people who are closest to Rand Paul are so actively engaged already in his 2016 run for president," Mr. Scarborough said on MSNBC's Morning Joe, which he co-hosts. "There is no doubt here that Rand Paul's people are expecting a big run for the White House and this is one part of it."
Mr. McConnell announced in September that he hired Mr. Benton, who is also married to the elder Paul's granddaughter to run his campaign.
The announcement came roughly two years after the younger Paul defeated Mr. McConnell's hand-picked Senate choice in the 2010 GOP primary race in Kentucky.
The move helped provide Mr. McConnell with some cover from disgruntled tea party activists. But late last month Matt Bevin, a Louisville businessman and married father of nine, announced that he was challenging the veteran lawmaker in the GOP primary — immediately winning the support of some local tea party groups.
Mr. Bevin weighed in on Mr. Benton's remarks via Twitter, posting an image of Mr. McConnell with a clothes pin on his nose and the message "Don't hold your nose ... vote for a real conservative MattBevin.com."
Mr. Benton, meanwhile, released a statement, saying that he is "truly sick" that someone would record a private conservation and use it to hurt him.
"I believe in Senator McConnell and am 100 percent committed to his re-election," Mr. Benton said. "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."
The McConnell campaign also posted a picture on Twitter of Mr. Benton holding his nose next to his current boss with the message: "Nothing smells worse the #Obamacare!#NoseGate."
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