Local media in Kentucky are following up on the cring-inducing story of Mitch McConnell’s conservative campaign chief, who is still on the job despite getting caught on tape saying he was “holding his nose” for a couple years to reelect the Senate minority leader.
I’ve seen a few people focusing on Benton’s sad but humanizing comment on what must have been a very tough conversation with McConnell: “He wasn’t angry, he wasn’t upset, but I could see the hurt in his eyes.”
But for my money, the really revealing moment comes here, where he explains why the campaign released a photo of McConnell and Benton making light of the comment: “I think we were trying to have some fun and crack a smile on what was a tough day …”
Maybe it’s just a heartwarming tale of a leader trying to boost his sidekick’s morale. But intentionally or not it underscores the point that McConnell needs Benton more than Benton needs McConnell. The broader public doesn’t care if a staff row has left campaign staffers feeling down in the dumps. But the GOP right does (remember, Benton is a Ron and Rand Paul guy). And McConnell can’t be seen — or even assumed — to be throwing one of their own under the bus.