(WHAS11 Political Blog) -- In the latest sign of the mutual co-opting of the Republican establishment and the Paul wing of the party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has hired Jesse Benton, the Vice-President of the Campaign for Liberty, to run his 2014 re-election campaign.
Benton ran U.S. Rep Ron Paul's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns and is married to Paul's granddaughter. He also managed Rand Paul's successful 2010 general election campaign for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky.
"We're committed to running a presidential-level campaign in Kentucky and that starts with a presidential campaign manager," McConnell said in a statement to Politico. "Jesse is literally the best in the business at building and organizing conservative grassroots movements and I'm thrilled he's chosen to return to Kentucky to lead my campaign."
On Tuesday, Benton released his resignation letter from Campaign for Liberty:
As I stand at an important crossroads in my life, I have been blessed with wonderful opportunities but also face difficult choices. After much soul searching, I have decided that my passion lies in direct electoral politics, and I plan to work on campaigns rather than resume my work in grassroots advocacy.
It is a bold stroke by McConnell, a recognition of the Tea Party's influence in Kentucky politics and perhaps a defensive move to fend off a potential Tea Party primary challenger.
Benton's move affirms the strategy of Rand Paul, that a fight for change is more effective within the Republican Party rather than to rail against it from the outside.
Rand Paul invoked the ire of zealous Ron Paul supporters when he endorsed GOP nominee Mitt Romney's presidential bid, (Ron Paul has not endorsed Romney). Kentucky's junior senator spoke at the Republican National Convention, just after a Ron Paul tribute video and a speech by McConnell.
When the two U.S. Senators appeared at a Kentucky State Capitol Tea Party rally in August, Paul made a concerted effort to vouch for McConnell as a true ally to the cause, in particular the fight against President Barack Obama's overhaul of the U.S. health care system.