I’ve learned a few things (I hope) in my three and half years covering politics in the Obama era. And Number One With a Bullet is this: if you ever want to know where to find the rightward-most, feasible position for Republicans to take in a given political crisis — and as the president is wont to point out, there’s a new one every week — look for Mitch McConnell. He’s usually sitting there in a folding chair, waiting for everybody else to show up. McConnell’s disposition on a given issue can be either heartening (e.g., on what would prove to be the last extension of the Bush tax cuts) or disheartening (e.g., on the debt-ceiling) but it almost always represents the right flank of the politically possible.
You would think being that good at the calculus of realpolitik would preclude you from being a conservative darling, but that’s not so — at least according to the American Conservative Union, who released their annual ranking of members of Congress this week. McConnell joins senators Ron Johnson, Jon Kyl, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Pat Toomey among the Senate Republicans earning perfect 100 percent scores. Remarkably, McConnell is the first ever sitting Senate Republican leader to earn a perfect score.
There’s a lot of loose talk on the left about the peril McConnell faces in his 2014 reelection bid, and not just re the potential of an Ashley Judd candidacy (I would laugh it off, but then again, Senator Al Franken). Steve Benen of Rachel Maddow’s blog, for instance, reported that McConnell has been “panicky” over the prospect of a primary challenge from the Tea Party. I’m not even sure what a “panicky” Mitch McConnell would look like — my guess is you’d need a blood-pressure arm cuff and a seismograph to detect it — but you’d have to think the ACU news is bucking him up a bit.