Kentucky’s senior senator is by one measure the chamber’s least popular at home, but minority leader Mitch McConnell is short on challengers right now. Ashley Judd has declined to seek the Democratic nomination against him. But more importantly McConnell looks set to avoid a primary fight with a Tea Party contender. Rand Paul has pre-emptively endorsed McConnell, and Rep. Thomas Massie—another key liberty-movement Republican—has played down the prospect of anyone taking on McConnell from the right.
“I can’t imagine a candidate who’s going to get more than 40 percent of the vote in a primary, so it’s not a good exercise to undertake,” Massie told The Hill. “There are a lot of people in Kentucky that would like me to do that and I categorically will not do it.”
It wouldn’t make sense for Senator Paul to pick a fight with another Republican in his home state—let alone the minority leader—even if Paul’s 2010 campaign manager, Jesse Benton, weren’t working for McConnell. The bigger strategic question for the Tea Party and other GOP insurgents is whether their goal is to eradicate the Republican establishment, in which case McConnell must go, or whether moving the establishment in the insurgency’s direction—on an organizational level, if not in policy—is sufficient. That’s a question that will play out far beyond Kentucky in next year’s elections.