I discovered Mitch McConnell on May 22, 2010.
Of course, as a budding young politico, I had followed Sen. McConnell for more than a decade. I respected his achievements and understood his importance, but it was that day that I was first allowed an inside look at the man who led my party in the United States Senate.
May 22 was five days after Rand Paul’s primary victory and any celebration we enjoyed had been short-lived. The liberal media was circling, the national Democratic machine was cranking up its attacks and Kentucky Republicans were deeply divided after a contentious spring campaign. The tea party won the primary, but the tea party alone would not be enough to win a general election in a state where Democrats held a 2-to-1 registration advantage.
Rand and I rode to Frankfort that morning not knowing what to expect. What we experienced was a very real GOP Unity Rally that had been put together by the only man capable of doing so: Senator Mitch McConnell.
That day and every day forward, Sen. McConnell made it clear to Republicans across the state that any primary bickering was to be left in the past, and that the party would come together to enthusiastically support their candidate, Dr. Rand Paul.
Sen. McConnell worked tirelessly for our campaign, and in the end, Kentuckians united to produce a grassroots effort that shattered state records. In the final 72 hours alone, our get-out-the-vote operation made over 200,000 live phones calls and knocked on 70,000 doors. Rand cruised to an historic 12-point victory, and we sent a dynamic new leader to the United States Senate.
During our campaign, I saw firsthand Sen. McConnell’s ability to unite traditional Republicans, fiscal and social conservatives, tea party activists, independents and conservative Democrats to form a broad coalition that could win.
He has risen to Republican leader of the Senate because he governs the same way. If conservatives are going to lead America’s comeback, we’re going to need to lean on Mitch McConnell to help build the consensus necessary to guide the way.
There is no question Mitch McConnell is the most conservative Republican leader of the Senate in generations. As he explains it, his job is a variation of the old William F. Buckley maxim: find the most conservative solution that can pass.
The job of leader by definition does not accommodate ideological purity, but Senator McConnell’s conservative record is very clear. When the history books are written, it will be said that few Americans have ever done more to protect the First Amendment than Mitch McConnell. He has stood up to presidents of both parties who have sought to curb free speech when it became politically inconvenient for them. Efforts to eliminate our freedoms like so-called “campaign finance reform” are never presented for what they are, and to defend our freedoms is seldom popular. But Mitch McConnell has shown that regardless of the political party or the public sentiment, he will be an unwavering defender of our constitutional rights.
He has also fought the Obama tax-and-spend agenda every step of the way and is leading the fight to repeal Obamacare. If we are able to repeal the president’s repressive healthcare scheme, it will be in large part due to the leadership of Mitch McConnell.
He has stood in the fire for conservatism while the liberal media attacked and has never asked for a pat on the back. He won’t apologize for saying he wants President Obama to be a one-term president and he’s simply unrepentant about his advocacy for the people of Kentucky. I have come to see that unlike most politicians in Washington, there is no stage production with Mitch McConnell — he is who he says he is.
It may not appear like an obvious fit for the chairman of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign to find his next calling with Mitch McConnell, but it makes perfect sense to me.
I believe in Sen. McConnell. He has the unique ability to stand on principle yet keep dialogue open and hold the line yet find common ground with willing partners. We need his mature, serious leadership and steady hand in Washington during these trying times.
During the next two years, I will have the privilege of serving as Sen. McConnell’s campaign manager. It is a tremendous opportunity and one that I do not take lightly. This will be much more than just another race for me. I am truly honored to be able to help re-elect a man who can bring Americans together to solve the serious problems we face.
Jesse Benton was Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign manager and the chairman of Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.