McConnell campaign, tea party activist publicly spar over primary challenge

A Kentucky Republican operative named David Adams is doing everything he can to drive Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell crazy.

Adams, a self-styled tea party activist who worked on Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s 2010 primary campaign, is regularly quoted in national media outlets lambasting McConnell, who faces re-election in 2014, and he is making an active effort to recruit a tea partier to challenge McConnell in the GOP primary. The McConnell campaign has attacked him back, creating a public conflict between the tea party and the so-called establishment senator, even as a seemingly unlikely alliance has emerged between McConnell and the more anti-establishment Paul.

A serious challenger to McConnell, who has a 44 percent approval rating according to a May Public Policy Polling poll conducted for Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, has yet to materialize. But for the past few weeks, Adams has been announcing to the press that he has found such a challenger. He will not, however, say whom.

“That’s going very well. No timeline. We’re just enjoying immensely watching the McConnell team flail around blindly,” Adams told The Daily Caller in a phone interview Friday. “We’ve got a little bit of time to just sit back and enjoy that. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Adams suggests his expertise stems from his time as Paul’s campaign manager during his 2010 primary election, but Kentucky operatives who worked with Adams on that and other campaigns were skeptical of Adams’ claims and his influence.

“I wore my car out traveling around all over the state trying to help a guy who was a virtual unknown become elected to the U.S Senate. Worked my guts out,” Adams said of his time on the Paul campaign. He parted ways with the campaign after the primary, he said, to go work on Phil Moffett’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, something he said he was “setting some groundwork for” before he joined the Paul campaign.

Other people from the Paul campaign tell the story differently, describing Adams as a likable person, but a poor campaign manager.

“David Adams? The guy we fired? He’s just so incompetent,” Jesse Benton, who managed Paul’s campaign after he won the Republican primary and is currently managing McConnell’s campaign, told TheDC in March, regarding Adams’ efforts to find a challenger to McConnell.

Another source close to the Paul campaign told TheDC that Adams’ claim that he was campaign manager was “not accurate in any capacity.”