McConnell stands by campaign manager

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated his full support for campaign manager Jesse Benton, despite negative comments Benton made about working with McConnell, with a tongue-in-cheek tweet sent late Thursday.

Benton was caught on tape during a private conversation with conservative activist Dennis Fusaro characterizing his work running McConnell's campaign as "sorta holding my nose for two years."

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He later walked back his comments, calling it an "honor" to work with McConnell and saying he's "100 percent committed to his re-election." And with the new tweet, which pokes fun at the flap, McConnell seems to indicate he's 100 percent committed to Benton.

"RT if you agree: Nothing smells worse than #Obamacare! #NoseGate" staff tweeted from McConnell's official campaign Twitter account, with a photo of Benton holding his nose standing next to a grinning McConnell.

McConnell's campaign has previously used humorous tweets and photos to respond to issues that have cropped up for the senator.

In response to President Obama's joke during this year's White House Correspondents Dinner that he wouldn't have a drink with McConnell, the senator tweeted a photo of himself sitting next to an empty chair and a glass of wine, sparking a meme.

It's an attempt by a senator facing low popularity in his home state to broaden his appeal and combat the image of him that his opponents are working to cultivate: That of an old, unhip creature of Washington who has been in the Senate for far too long.

Both Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes have sought to contrast themselves as fresh faces up against the 30-year congressional veteran.

But McConnell's tweet reveals yet another difficulty he faces in his reelection fight — that posed by Bevin, who has already gained some traction with Tea Party groups in the state and nationwide.

McConnell hired Benton, who previously worked as Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) campaign manager and led Ron Paul's presidential campaign, to help him shore up support from his right flank that has eroded considerably during his past term.

Conservatives are critical of McConnell for his votes for the financial bailout and support of the last immigration overhaul, among other policies, and they believe his low popularity in multiple polls makes him vulnerable to a challenge.

McConnell's decision to keep Benton on means he'll still be able to tap into his grassroots connections in the states. And for Benton, the relationship offers some long-term utility as well — he told Fusaro that his work for McConnell is "going to be a big benefit to Rand [Paul] in 2016," presumably when Paul runs for president.