Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is trying to twist the knife on the resignation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) campaign manager Jesse Benton.
Benton, on Friday, announced his plans to resign from the campaign amid ongoing questions about his alleged role in a 2012 Iowa bribery scandal related to Ron Paul. His resignation was effective Saturday.
On Tuesday the Grimes campaign released a new we ad hitting McConnell on Benton’s resignation. The ad, obtained by TPM, splices together t.v. news reports of Benton resigning from the campaign. “Kentuckians deserve answers” the ad concludes.
Watch it below:
The ad follows a three-day weekend in which Grimes continued to point the finger at McConnell over Benton’s resignation. In an interview with a Louisville Insider reporter when asked about Benton, Grimes said, “I think they are very serious questions that Mitch McConnell, his campaign, needs to answer.”
In a separate interview with WHAS-TV, the ABC affiliate in Louisville, Grimes also said “trust has always been an issue for Mitch McConnell and his campaign. And he has got some serious questions regarding these charges that he and his campaign are going to have to respond to.”
A year ago audio surfaced of Benton saying he was holding his nose for two years by working with McConnell because it would be a “big benefit” to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in 2016. That audio made McConnell do damage control and suggested that McConnell’s relationship with Benton, the former political director for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, was at times strained.
“I think it’s hard to tell because it was always a strange relationship to begin with. Strange and strained, I would say. To people who follow Kentucky politics there has always been a tension between the McConnell and Sen. Paul camp,” University of Louisville political science professor Jasmine Farrier told TPM on Monday.
In 2010 McConnell supported Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) primary opponent Trey Grayson over Paul, who ultimately won. After that, McConnell tapped Benton to run his re-election campaign, a sign that McConnell was looking to move on to any sort of rivalries existed between his camp and Paul supporters.
Farrier said McConnell and Benton had been working together because the partnership seemed to benefit both sides.
“So Senator McConnell wanted to shore up his credentials for the tea party movement while it was ascendent and Senator Paul, of course, wants to shore up his mainstream credentials as he moves toward a presidential bid,” Farrier added. “So those two trajectories came together in this campaign manager who obviously had no taste for Senator McConnell which was of course exposed in this gaffe about holding his nose. So even though the reason for his stepping out now is related to allegations in Iowa, the truth is whatever was accomplished by having him on was finished by the time the primary was over.”
The TPM Polltracker average gives McConnell a 4.4 point lead over Grimes.