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Will 'Nosegate' really hurt Mitch McConnell at the polls?

Mitch McConnell's campaign manager was caught saying he's 'holding his nose' for now in order to help Rand Paul's presidential bid later. We doubt that's enough to wound a tough campaigner with a massive war chest.

By Staff Writer / August 9, 2013

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky (r.) with campaign manager Jesse Benton holding his nose in this photograph on the senator's reelection campaign Facebook page.

Courtesy McConnellForSenate Facebook page

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WASHINGTON

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, has been caught on tape saying he’s “holding his nose” while working for Kentucky’s Republican senior senator.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Mr. Benton’s purpose in doing a job he finds distasteful, according to the secret recording, is to cement a relationship that will help Kentucky’s Republican/libertarian junior senator, Rand Paul, in a reelection or possible presidential bid.

“What we’re doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in ’16,” said Benton on the tape, first reported by Economic Policy Journal on Thursday.

Wow, talk about unrest in the ranks. Is “Nosegate," as pundits have labeled the affair, going to hurt Senator McConnell at the polls in 2014? After all, Kentuckians already seem dissatisfied with McConnell’s performance – polls show his favorability rating is currently negative in the state.

Some pundits say the proboscis revelation could indeed be a problem for the Senate’s GOP leader.

It’s true that political insiders are fully aware that Benton, a longtime Ron Paul and Rand Paul supporter, is more a tea party person than an establishment Republican. McConnell hired him in part to build a bridge to the tea party wing of his party.

But most voters don’t know that. And McConnell’s opponents might use Benton’s remarks to show that even McConnell’s staff thinks McConnell is inauthentic.

“It’s not that voters care about staff stuff. They don’t. But this development allows staff stuff to become indicative of McConnell trying to be something he isn’t,” writes Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza on “The Fix” blog.

The primary beneficiary of this gaffe is likely McConnell’s primary opponent, wealthy Louisville businessman Matt Benton, adds National Journal’s Alex Roarty.

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