FRANKFORT — Sen. Rand Paul defended the campaign manager of Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, saying that he believed the former Paul aide is sincere in his efforts to get Kentucky's senior senator re-elected in 2014.
Paul, in an appearance on CBS This Morning, also tried to joke about the recently leaked recording of McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton. In the recording, Benton said he was "holding his nose" as he managed McConnell's re-election campaign over the next two years.
"I've been on a campaign bus with him before. And I'm guessing that it's McConnell who has to hold his nose sometimes."
When asked to elaborate on his statement, Paul laughed. "We'll just have to let that stand as is."
Paul said he knew Benton well. "I see nothing but sincerity and desire really, to have Sen. McConnell re-elected. And I think he'll do everything within his power to make that happen," Paul said.
The recording of Benton was published last week by the Economic Policy Journal, which said it was made in January when Dennis Fusaro of the Reformed Theological Seminary called Benton to ask a question about the presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who is Rand Paul's father.
Benton, who is married to Ron Paul's granddaughter, was spokesman for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. He also led the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign of Rand Paul, who rode the Tea Party wave to defeat Attorney General Jack Conway.
"Between you and me, I'm sort of holding my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit for Rand in 2016," Benton said on the recording. "That's my long vision."
In an email last week, Benton called the recording "truly sick" and said he is "100 percent committed" to McConnell's re-election.
The McConnell campaign also released a photo poking fun at the recording. In the photo, Benton is seen holding his nose as he stands next to McConnell.
McConnell is in one of the toughest fights of his storied political career. Some polls have Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in the lead. The Cook Political Report has also deemed the race a "toss-up."
McConnell also faces a Republican challenger in the primary — Louisville millionaire and first-time candidate Matt Bevin.
But on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Paul said he doesn't believe that McConnell is in trouble. Kentucky voters do not like President Barack Obama and have consistently voted for Republican candidates for federal offices.
"We voted 61 percent for Gov. Romney," Paul said, referring to the 2012 presidential race where voters in Kentucky overwhelmingly voted for Republican Mitt Romney over Obama.
Paul — who has previously admitted that he is considering a possible 2016 presidential run — said he has still not made a decision on whether he wants the Republican nomination for president. Paul has recently made trips to key states — such as Iowa and New Hampshire— fueling speculation that he will run. The final decision will have to be made with his family, Paul said Tuesday.
"It's an enormous invasion of privacy," Paul said.
Beth Musgrave: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com