Some high-profile Republican senators have lost or faced tough primary challenges from the Tea Party; earlier this year, six-term incumbent Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) lost the Republican nomination to Richard Mourdock.

But by recruiting Benton to head his campaign, McConnell is looking to avoid a challenge from the right. And the tea party operative looks eager to maintain his roots, even as he joins the staff of one of the most establishment Republican senators. In a statement posted on Ron Paul's campaign website, Benton pledges to grassroots activists that he remains "happy to be a resource and friend to any and all of you, for whatever is in my power to provide."

Rep. Paul also posted a statement thanking Benton for his work.

"Jesse remains committed to building on the historic progress our movement has made, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors," Paul said.