Rand Paul endorses Mitch McConnell in 2014 Senate race, won’t back tea party challenge

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The Daily Caller has learned that Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is endorsing Sen. Mitch McConnell for re-election in 2014, ending speculation that Paul would back a tea party challenge to the Senate minority leader.

“Rand Paul has endorsed McConnell,” Jesse Benton, McConnell’s 2014 campaign manager, told The Daily Caller.

Benton, who has worked for both Rand Paul and his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, is credited by insiders with brokering Paul’s support for McConnell.

The move quashes a determined effort by Kentucky Republican Liberty Caucus chairman David Adams, who launched Paul’s Senate bid and served as Paul’s campaign manager through the 2010 primaries, and other tea party leaders to mount a primary challenge against McConnell.

Paul recently appeared in a Mitch McConnell advertisement with the slogan “Stand Up to Obama: Join Mitch & Rand,” prompting Adams to complain on Facebook, “Is anyone buying this, really?” (RELATED: Ashley Judd announces she will not take on McConnell)

“There’s no support at all at this point for a tea party challenge,” Benton said, in a statement confirmed by other Kentucky Republican insiders.

Adams had a conversation with Paul at an event Wednesday afternoon, but they were not meeting in order for Adams to try to convince Paul to back off his pro-McConnell stance, as had been suspected by one insider.

“I was there with a couple hundred Lexington Republicans. I chatted briefly with Rand for a few minutes, but it wasn’t an exclusive one-on-one kind of meeting,” Adams told TheDC, adding that he’s still hopeful that the tea party wing of the party can field a challenger to McConnell.

“There are behind-closed-doors meetings happening all over the state. Right now, we’re trying to gauge interest and viability for a generic candidate. We’re working to get down to one alternative to McConnell. The process will be completed by June 1,” Adams said.

Adams admitted that Paul’s endorsement of McConnell will not hurt Paul with his tea party base, but said it will rather reflect poorly on McConnell for trying to ingratiate himself with the tea party element through Paul.

“Among people here in Kentucky, it’s not a major concern. Rand has built up a lot of goodwill with voters in Kentucky who are not McConnell fans at all, so they see this as a McConnell effort to try to ingratiate himself with Rand supporters. It will hurt McConnell, if anything,” Adams said.

But Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, isn’t so sure.

“David Adams? The guy we fired? He’s just so incompetent,” Benton said. “He’s trying to stir some rumor mill” about a serious tea party challenger, Benton insisted.

“Rand can’t stand David [Adams],” Benton said.

Infighting between tea party figures has also weakened the chances for businessman and potential tea party challenger Matt Bevin to take on McConnell, according to some insiders.

“He’s had his name thrown around out here, but I’m not convinced” of Bevin’s viability, Adams said. “I think there are other potentially superior candidates.”

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