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August 02, 2013 5:15 PM Mitch McConnell’s Back

By Ed Kilgore

Greg Sargent notes today that three highly influential “constitutional conservatives” in the Senate, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson, have gone out of their way to pass up opportunities to endorse Mitch McConnell in his 2014 primary against the previously almost unknown Matt Bevins. So, too, are the Club For Growth and the Senate Conservative Fund. All these individuals and organizations are obviously hoping to use the implicit threat of backing Bevins—and thus “nationalizing” the Kentucky race and making McConnell the new Dick Lugar or Bob Bennett and Bevins the new Richard Mourdock or Mike Lee—to influence McConnell’s behavior as Minority Leader in the Senate. The minute any of them endorse McConnell, this leverage is gone.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul has endorsed his senior colleague, even though McConnell tried to kill off his political career in 2010. But it hasn’t been enough to take McConnell off the table as a target for exactly the sort of insurgency Paul himself represented when he took on McConnell’s little buddy Tray Grayson.

So other than ensuring that Paul wouldn’t join the Matt Bevins bandwagon, what good is Rand’s endorsement actually going to do for McConnell going into 2014? Will his Paul’s Kentucky supporters pay attention to his position on the race? Or will they assume it was just a collegial gesture, and view what out-of-state “constitutional conservatives” say as the indication of what he’d really do if he could do what he wanted?

I dunno, but if I were ol’ Mitch, I wouldn’t for a moment assume Rand Paul had my back. The “coverage” may be like a hospital gown, where it’s flapping in the breeze even as people passing you in the hallways laugh at your exposed posterior.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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