David Adams — former campaign manager for Rand Paul’s Senate run and president of the Tea Party PAC Kentucky Knows Best — tells LEO Weekly that he is not pleased with the fiscal cliff compromise that Sen. Mitch McConnell negotiated with the White House and passed through Congress this week, and he is actively recruiting potential primary challengers against McConnell for 2014.
“Compromise between people who want all tax increases and no spending cuts shouldn’t be tax increases plus spending increases,” says Adams, echoing the general sentiments of Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.
Whereas many inside the Beltway — including Rep. John Yarmuth — have praised McConnell for compromising with Democrats in order to stave off an increase in the tax rate for 98 percent of Americans, Adams views the senator’s maneuvering as another failure of leadership.
“It’s just another disappointment,” Adams says. “Sen. McConnell was quoted in the Wall Street Journal calling the idea of going off the cliff ‘Thelma and Louise economics.’ And that comes down to the basics of Keynesian economics. If we’re all going to die if the government stops overspending its available income, then we’re already sunk. So, we’re very disappointed.”
Tea Party leadership in Kentucky — particularly Sen. Rand Paul — has been hesitant to directly criticize McConnell over the past two years, but Adams says that McConnell’s tax deal may change the landscape, including a primary challenger.
“I think it has the potential to change quite a bit,” Adams says. “(There’s been) a lot more activity the last couple of days, people trying to figure out what to do about 2014.”
WFPL reported this morning that Louisville Tea Party president Sarah Durand called the compromise bill a “very poor reflection on Republican leadership.”
Adams says the Tea Party in Kentucky is now walking a tight rope between trying to find a viable challenger to McConnell — which would take a great deal of fundraising and personal risk — and trying to convince McConnell to move further to the right.
“You have one foot moving in that direction, trying to firm (a primary challenger) up,” Adams says. “And the other wanting to be diplomatic and hope that gentle persuasion can be effective with Sen. McConnell, despite all the evidence that it can’t be.
“It’s a tough tap dance right now. It’s not just these wild-eyed Tea Partiers having difficulty with that just because they’re wild-eyed Tea Partiers. It’s anybody with any skill level that’s going to have a challenge, a conundrum like that.”
Adams says he’s already had discussions with potential Republican primary challengers against McConnell in 2014.
“A lot of it’s coming to me, those aren’t all outbound calls,” Adams says. “There’s a lot of conversation about that.”
Adams says that for such a candidacy to succeed, they would have to be able to raise millions of dollars to run an effective statewide campaign. Obviously, such a candidate has not yet emerged, but Adams says “we’re close.”
Adams also correctly notes that such a challenger would have to receive support from either Paul — who has already endorsed McConnell and has abstained from any direct criticism of McConnell for over two years — or congressional newcomer Thomas Massie, or at least public criticism of McConnell from the Kentucky Tea Party delegation.
“In order to believe that such a challenge has any kind of chance, you have to figure that those people are going to be persuadable pretty quickly, so we’d hope to see some leadership pretty quickly on that level,” Adams says. “But it’s not really that critical until we have an opponent.”
While McConnell received a warm reception from Tea Partiers at an anti-Obamacare rally in Frankfort last summer, many of their rank and file still distrust or openly despise him for past transgressions, such as helping to orchestrate the 2008 bank bailouts and his former affinity for federal government spending in the Bush years. Adams says he’s not sure what kind of reception McConnell would receive if he spoke at a Tea Party rally today.
“It’s hard to find 300 people who would agree on anything,” Adams says. “We could find 300 people (who would cheer), or we could find 300 people who would boo him at the top of their lungs.”
**** UPDATE ****
The Northern Kentucky Tea Party, maybe the most active group in the state, does not appear very fond of McConnell right now, either:
***** UPDATE 2 *****
McConnell’s campaign is not shying away from his fiscal cliff deal, as his campaign manager (who oddly enough took over Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign from… David Adams) just sent out this email attempting to raise money off of McConnell’s maneuver, saying “He showed the strong, disciplined and savvy leadership that only he can provide.”
Benton obviously isn’t afraid of Adams or anybody else among the Tea Party crowd back home. We’ll see soon enough if his estimation is correct…