The editors of Mother Jones, the Left-wing magazine that damaged Mitt Romney's presidential bid by releasing the infamous "47 percent" video last year, think they have another scoop on their hands. The publication's Washington bureau chief published a breathless story this morning, revealing that Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign...discussed possible ways of defeating Ashley Judd if she became the Democrats' nominee. The horror. Even the MSM was forced to dismiss the non-bombshell:
This — as any campaign operative will tell you — is the basic blocking and tackling of opposition research that every candidate does both against their potential opponents and against themselves. And, the average voter won’t a) follow this story or b) care all that much if they do — especially since this news is breaking on the day after the Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA basketball tournament...The audio of the McConnell meeting is exactly the reason why we — and many Democratic operatives — believed that Judd would be a poor candidate to challenge the Senate Minority Leader. McConnell has made his political living by savaging his opponents and Judd — as the tape makes abundantly clear — was an embarrassment of riches in terms of her past public statements.
Which is precisely why national Democrats eagerly pushed her out of the race. Mother Jones seems to think that the McConnell campaign's spit-balling session about exploiting Judd's vast reservoir of outlandish comments amounts to a scandal of some sort. They were considering making an issue of her religious beliefs! And what might those be? Verbatim quote:
“I still choose the God of my understanding as the God of my childhood. I have to expand my God concept from time to time, and you know particularly I enjoy native faith practices, and have a very nature-based God concept. I’d like to think I’m like St. Francis in that way. Brother Donkey, Sister Bird.”
Oh, and she sees Christianity as a "vestige of patriarchy." I'm sure that would have been a big hit in Kentucky. The audio goes on to demonstrate that Team McConnell weighed if and how to use Judd's history of mental illness -- a nugget of vicious oppo-research they unearthed by, er, reading Judd's book. In any case, after the scoopless scoop landed with a thud, the story has now become about how the audio recordings were obtained in the first place. The strategy session in question was private and only attended by a handful of McConnell loyalists. The Republican's campaign is alleging an illegal recording or wiretap, and calling for a federal investigation. The FBI is now officially involved. Tables turned:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put on a clinic in crisis communications Tuesday, turning a potentially explosive secret recording of his campaign's strategy session into a political bludgeon to beat Democrats — and the campaign cash bushes. "Last week they were attacking my wife's ethnicity and apparently also bugging my headquarters, much like Nixon and Watergate," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill...McConnell's strategy with the tapes, which included calling in the FBI as well as accusing his opponents of illegally bugging his office, has awed Republican political observers. "McConnell took their faux-drama and busted a cap in their ass. He turned it within minutes into a legal, political and fundraising attack on MoJo, the DSCC, American Bridge and the rest," said Rick Wilson, a GOP consultant based in Florida. "Really, quite impressive. Don't let that softspoken thing fool you. He'll cut a bitch." While accusing progressives of bugging his campaign office Plumbers-style could come back to haunt him if he's not right, the early indications are McConnell has fired up his base and turned the story into a cash cow for his reelection campaign. And he's succeeded in quickly turning the discussion away from the substance of the tapes — a task made easier by the fact that there was no smoking gun in the recording.
Beyond the masterful politics are the legal implications. Who made the tape? Was a bug planted? (If so, it could be a felony). Will Mother Jones explain its provenance? Are they willing to risk prison time to protect their source, even if it's an unlawful one? Democrats have been strangely silent on requests that they denounce the surreptitious recordings. I say "strangely" because even though they may detest McConnell, does any elected Democrat want to foster a political environment in which secret recordings of private meetings become politically acceptable? I'll leave you with the Senate Minority Leader teeing off on the Left in his presser this afternoon. This is what we call "on message:"
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography