For McConnell, ties to Rand Paul are a double-edged sword

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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A conservative outside group called Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is running an ad in Kentucky, linking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Sen. Rand Paul.

The junior senator is dramatically more popular with Kentucky Republicans than McConnell, so this makes perfect sense for an embattled candidate who must stave off a primary challenge (ostensibly) from the right, before turning his attention to a legitimate General Election challenger.

But just as Paul’s support is helping McConnell today, baggage associated with Paul’s campaign organization could cause heartburn tomorrow.

Consider this from the OpenSecrets blog:

“Earlier this month, we wrote that McConnell’s campaign also paid a political operative named Dimitri Kesari, a top Ron Paul aide …  Late last month, another former National Right to Work employee provided OpenSecrets.org with a copy of a complaint he made to the anti-labor union organization, accusing Kesari of running an off-the-books mass mailing operation that coordinated closely, and illegally, with Iowa legislative candidates. … Kesari also has been named in emails, along with [McConnell campaign manager Jesse] Benton, that appear to show they were involved in negotiations to pay an Iowa state senator in 2011 to switch his support from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to Ron Paul in the presidential straw poll in Ames. Benton and Kesari were both working on Ron Paul’s White House bid at the time.”

This is in the weeds. People don’t vote for staffers or operatives, they vote for the principal. As such, so far, this doesn’t seem to have impacted the race in Kentucky.

But one imagines these attacks will ratchet up if and when the General Election begins in earnest. And if Democrats can find a way make this part of a larger narrative about Mitch McConnell, then it could become a real problem.

In the meantime, you can watch the ad here: