McConnell hires tea party strategist

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has hired some tea party credibility.

The Kentucky Republican has hired Jesse Benton, who steered the presidential campaign of Texas congressman Ron Paul, to head McConnell's reelection campaign in 2014. McConnell says he's committed to running a presidential-level campaign, and Benton's hiring shows he's acutely aware of the need to win support from conservatives. The hire, along with McConnell's $6 million campaign war chest, could also scare off potential tea party challengers.

In 2010, McConnell backed Trey Grayson for the state's then-empty Senate seat, but Paul's son, Rand, won instead_with tea party support. Now a hero of the small-government movement, Rand Paul says he supports McConnell's hiring of Benton.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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