Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office sent out a deeply strange message to supporters, which was unhinged even by contemporary GOP standards. The letter, signed McConnell's 2014 campaign manager, condemn "executive orders" that don't exist and rejected universal background checks as a "thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme" intended to "ensure federal government minders gain every bureaucratic tool they need for full-scale confiscation."
None of the claims was even remotely true, but Team McConnell didn't much care.
It now appears to be part of a pattern. Indeed, McConnell and his aides are under the impression that the key to winning another term is by relying on conspiracy theories and rampant paranoia.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign is contending that Democratic liberals are trying to infiltrate conservative groups in the state to oust McConnell next year.
Tea Party activists in the state who disfavor McConnell deny the claim, saying they are not working with any Democratic group in an effort to retire the Republican senator from Louisville.
In a campaign fund-raising email Monday, McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, said every conservative in the state needs to be aware of "an important development."
And what, pray tell, is so "important"? According to McConnell's office, a Politico piece "confirmed that (President) Barack Obama's Democratic allies are attempting to infiltrate conservative organizations across Kentucky to encourage and fund opposition to Senator Mitch McConnell."
Well, that sounds pretty provocative. Unfortunately, it's not what Politico reported at all -- the piece said Democrats were prepared to support a Tea Party candidate in a Republican primary as a way of weakening McConnell, but that involved "reaching out" to conservative activists, not "infiltrating conservative organizations." McConnell's office just made that up.
So why would Team McConnell, once again, push a bogus message to its own allies? A few reasons, actually.
First, apparently, McConnell's aides don't think the truth is good enough to rally supporters, so the facts have to be wildly exaggerated.
Second, McConnell seems to be deeply concerned about a primary challenge -- though there are no announced candidates -- and hopes to discredit opponents from the right before they exist. If that means saying things that aren't true, so be it.
And third, McConnell really does have a problem on his hands. Recent polling shows him in a weak position going into his re-election bid, and just this week, the Louisville Courier-Journal found that only 17% of Kentucky voters are committed to vote for McConnell next year. For a powerful incumbent, that's not an impressive number -- and it's certainly not a figure that's likely to scare away would-be opponents.
And so, the solution from Team McConnell's vantage point is to start making stuff up about Democrats "infiltrating" conservative groups in Kentucky, and pursuing "full-scale confiscation" of guns in Washington.
After five terms in office, McConnell probably shouldn't have to resort to this nonsense, but regrettably, he and his team disagree.