Senate GOP leaders look outside as they run for re-election
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas
July 11th, 2013
01:29 PM ET
1 year ago

Senate GOP leaders look outside as they run for re-election

Updated 1:41 p.m. ET

Washington (CNN) – They're the top two ranked Republicans in the U.S. Senate, and they're both running for re-election next year.

And now, both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas have both reached out to veterans of the grassroots conservative movement to run their re-election campaigns.

Cornyn announced Thursday that he's hired Brendan Steinhauser (no relation to this reporter) as his 2014 campaign manager. During the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, Steinhauser was director of campaigns for FreedomWorks, a D.C. based grassroots group that played an influential role in the rise of the tea party movement and backed conservative candidates in federal races. FreedomWorks’ efforts in GOP Senate primary battles were often at odds with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Cornyn chaired during the 2010 and 2012 cycles.

Steinhauser last year led FreedomWorks’ grassroots efforts in helping elect Ted Cruz of Texas to the Senate. And in 2010, his efforts assisted Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mike Lee of Utah in their Senate victories.

"Brendan has been working hard for conservative policies and candidates in more than 40 states, and I am excited that he is joining our team in Texas," said Cornyn in a statement.

Steinhauser, a Texas native, said in a statement that he's "excited to work for my senior Senator from Texas, a conservative leader that I admire and respect."

The move by Cornyn follows McConnell's hiring last year of Jesse Benton to manage his re-election campaign in Kentucky. Benton was one of the senior advisers to then-Rep. Ron Paul's 2008 and 2012 runs for the Republican presidential nomination and to Rand Paul's 2010 election in Kentucky to the Senate. Both Pauls enjoyed strong support from tea party activists.

While both conservatives, McConnell and Cornyn are also considered part of the GOP establishment, thanks to their leadership roles in the Senate. And now both of their campaign managers have strong credentials in the grassroots and tea party world, which has been a force the past two cycles in GOP congressional primaries. In many cases, Republican members of Congress up for re-election fear a possible conservative primary challenge more than their general election Democratic opponent.

"Any challenge Cornyn might face (and to be clear, there's also no evidence yet of any such challenge) might be in a primary. So it's just a very smart political move to hire someone with strong credentials on the right, even with no serious challenge at this point on that horizon," says a Republican strategist with experience in Texas elections, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.

Another Republican strategist says this isn't an establishment versus grassroots storyline, but rather it's about beating Democrats in the general election.

"Senator Cornyn has one of the most consistently conservative records in the Senate so I don't think it should surprise anyone that he'd hire someone with that same principled background to run his campaign," says Brian Walsh, who served as Cornyn's communications director at the NRSC. "Brendan Steinhauser's a rising star on the Republican side and his leadership at the helm of the Cornyn campaign just further highlights the uphill challenge facing national Democrats who still harbor illusions about turning Texas from red to blue."


Filed under: 2014 • John Cornyn • Kentucky • Mitch McConnell • Senate • Texas
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Klinger

    With any luck at all they'll be defeated handily.

    July 11, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    They went out and got some radical advisers to make sure they don't get primaried. One thing is certain and that's that these obstructionists have to go!

    GOTP Funeral 2014

    July 11, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    "And now, both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas have both reached out to veterans of the grassroots conservative movement to run their re-election campaigns."

    In other words, they are reaching out to their billionaire TEAperville donors? You know. Those grass roots folks, Mr. and Mr. Koch.

    July 11, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    When you think of the GOP And the teaparty garbage ,think of the crooks Tom delay and the other pig , dick armey!!!!, and vote for dems only,after all, what has the GOP done in the last five years besides have 38 repeal Obama care votes at 1.5 million a piece of your tax money, screw the GOP!!!!!

    July 11, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda/Minnesota
    In other words, they are reaching out to their billionaire TEAperville donors? You know. Those grass roots folks, Mr. and Mr. Koch.
    -------------------------------------------------
    You are so right!
    And here I am thinking that they were going to reach out to Jesus....for another one of his miracles!
    ROFLMAO!!!

    July 11, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Tom

    Well, we'll see how this works out. The thing I find interesting is this "circle the wagons" mentality that seems to have reemerged in the Republican party. In the wake of Mitt Romney's defeat in November some Republicans seemed to believe that reinventing the party to be more inclusive for minorities (particularly Hispanics) and women might make the party more competitive. Now it looks like things have devolved back to the status quo - focus on wealthy, white, male ultra-conservative voters, rely on the usual collection of Republican wedge issues and forget about everyone else. The problem is even if you get 100% of those voters to support your candidate, the demographics are still against you. It seems like the Republicans have become so wrapped up in their ideology, they just can't see reality anymore.

    July 11, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  7. Wake up People!

    Look at em, shaking in their boots. Don't worry girls, your pimps will take excellent care of you and ensure your reelection. Somebody has to look out for the poor, put upon billionaires.......

    But Mitch might have to bow down a little more since he failed to deliver on the GOP's #1 goal.......

    July 11, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  8. lolo

    Oh boy this is getting good. The clowns are trying to buy their re-election again. Sorry GOP not working this time. You have alienated everyone but your crazy tea party folks and there just isn't enough of them to get you re-elected. Goodbye GOP forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 11, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  9. Bill from GA

    They're getting a lot of help from the extremists on the left.

    I was, until recently, pretty far to the left, but they left me behind. I wouldn't vote republican, but I'm not so fond of the Dems these days, either.

    Still 100% in favor of getting mcconnell out; he is beyond disgusting.

    July 11, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    Another Republican strategist says this isn't an establishment versus grassroots storyline, but rather it's about beating Democrats in the general election.
    -----------------
    I agree. The establishment has already lost the war. Case in point, Cornyn hiring Steinhauser. That's called surrender, folks.

    July 11, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. Data Driven

    "a D.C.-based grassroots group"

    Oxymoron much? FreedomWorks is not a grassroots group.

    Meanwhile: you're getting sleepy, wingers .... keep looking at this watch, wingers .... I'm not a D.C. insider, I'm a grassroots guy who cares about you .... you're getting sleepier ....

    July 11, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. Bessy

    Neither one of them should ever be re-elected, but, considering where they come from ,and the fact that votes can be bought, they probably will be. Sad ! Sad ! Sad !

    July 11, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. Lynda/Minnesota

    Dominican mama: ROFLMAO!!!

    I am being limited to what I can say. I'm glad that what does get printed added a few chuckles to your day! Even if I can't always comment to you, you always make me laugh. I'm happy to reach out to you in my own little ... well ... way.

    July 11, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  14. Steveo

    I wish we had folks up there who "looked outside" at us as a reminder of who they work for!

    July 11, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. Boomer in Mo

    Money is all that matters in American politics any more. Party does not matter. Just how much money can you get from the 1 percent to buy the election with. Those of us who have been thrown out of the middle class have no future and are doomed to live from paycheck to paycheck forever, never able to retire until we drop, perhaps drop dead, in the traces in our late 70s or 80s. Not much future to look forward to.

    July 11, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  16. Hal

    Aside from Dr. Roe and Senator Cruz.. I would like to know if there is one other Conservative Senator in DC? Arubio, Bush (Jeb and George), Boehner, Romney, Corker, Alexander, Graham, Ryan, McCain are all Rino's. None of the other group of 8, represent Conservative values, all are Rino's! Anyone who compromises with Bi-Partisan bills is not representative of the Republican Party. All of them are on the wrong side of the Isle. You do not compromise with spoiled children.. you say "NO". AND this is the only way you teach them how to behave. It is the same in DC with the Left. I am close to switching parties AND becoming a Libertarian based on recent performances. I am utterly disgusted and called my local Senator's office to complain. NO ONE in the GOP has earned my vote. We have 3 Conservatives in the entire house. They are a shameful bunch of spineless sell outs! Letting the Benghazi matter "GO" is yet another sign they are unable to effectively represent Republican Women or the Republican Party. And you consider McConnell top ranked? You must be joking.. he is not Conservative either!

    July 11, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  17. S.B. Stein

    It would be nice if word of mouth and record of responsible choices could influence more than money does. There is too much money in politics now. I don't see it decreasing anytime soon which is a shame.

    July 11, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Who is "they"? And why do you think a women's responsibility for her baby and her actions end? We all know children can be terribly inconvient and a lot of work but shouldn't the mother have thought about that before conceiving a child when there are many, many ways to avoid it?"

    "They" is (are) the folks talking about the cute little womb crawlers as being a viable, living, breathing, baby at conception while limiting a woman's personal decision regarding said womb crawler, and then chastising said woman for the inability of supporting said child after birth. Look, if it makes you feel better, I personally am not in favor of abortion for me. Well, in all fairness, I am long past my childbearing years. That being said, I agree there is no alternative to birth control in stopping a pregnancy from happening ... than birth control. However, getting birth control - and using birth control - seems to be a problem for both women AND men. Until such time as using birth control becomes the norm in America, there will be unwanted pregnancies. To date, I can't say America has done much in the way of helping unloved and unwanted children once they are born. Including adoption. Especially for those under age children having children. Our courts are filled to capacity with child abuse, child neglect, child endangerment cases. I agree there can and should be limits to when an abortion should considered an option ... or not.

    I am NOT in the habit of condemning a woman who chooses abortion. Then again, I'm not into political talking points either.

    July 11, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Lynda wrote:

    I am being limited to what I can say. I'm glad that what does get printed added a few chuckles to your day! Even if I can't always comment to you, you always make me laugh. I'm happy to reach out to you in my own little ... well ... way.
    --------------------
    Me, too. I'e posted some powerful comebacks that don't make the cut. They want me to be the old guy driving the slow car in the right lane. Dag-nabbit.

    July 11, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  20. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Well,
    I see someone is using my name. And I didn't think any of you were payin' attention1 Ye are desperate are ye? So is Obama and Obama Care. Have fun.

    July 11, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. Thomas

    Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn never paid back the contributions he received from Enron .

    GW Bush / Rick Perry / John Cornyn
    Too much money in politics

    July 11, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  22. Dallas

    I think McConnell is in more trouble than Cornyn. Big John has the tea party whack jobs here in Texas supporting him. I think it may be sometime before we are able to rid ourselves here in the Lone Star State of both Cornyn and Cruz. However, the governor's race is another matter – a viable alternative to Abbott is needed desparately. We don't need anymore of these sanctimonious tea bag hypocrites.

    July 11, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair observed:

    If you want to live a decent, middle class lifestyle, vote Democrat.
    -----------------–
    So. Does that mean that if you want to live like folks in red states, then you should vote Republican?

    [All Right Wingers: That should be written as "vote Democratic", not "vote Democrat." Right wingers sound like that guy Biff from "Back to the Future" when you say it like that. The same goes for when you say "Democrat Party."]

    July 11, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. Lynda/Minnesota

    Rudy NYC: Me, too. I'e posted some powerful comebacks that don't make the cut.

    Don't even get me started, Rudy. Your comebacks are great and I really do wish we could say what we need to get said directed at some of the more banal comments coming at us. Some days I just walk away from the silliness. Other times, I turn to joking. Even my most innocuous of jokes are heavily moderated.

    One day, just for chuckles and giggles, I might try to use my most heaviest of snark. It is frustrating though to have direct quotes used as simple fact finding moderated and/or deleted. It takes away from truth ... and that I AM NOT fond of.

    July 11, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |