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McConnell's Unseen Hand at the NRSC

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
In a restructuring of the National Republican Senatorial Committee led by McConnell, second from right, Cruz, right, was selected as vice chairman for grass-roots outreach while Moran won the NRSC chairman post.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blessed Sen. Jerry Moran’s bid to helm the National Republican Senatorial Committee only after the Kansan agreed to a restructured NRSC that calls for him to share power with two vice chairmen.

The NRSC chairman is an elected position, and Moran ran unopposed for the slot. But there was considerable resistance to the freshman senator’s bid by McConnell and other GOP leaders, who furiously attempted to recruit a member they considered higher profile and more politically seasoned, multiple Republican sources have confirmed.

To assuage that concern and reassure the conference, Moran agreed to accept an NRSC leadership triumvirate that includes Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the vice chairman for finance, and Texas Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, the vice chairman for grass-roots outreach. These positions did not previously exist, and both men have been granted at least some authority over committee strategy and staff hires.

“There were a lot of questions about whether [Moran] had the horsepower for the job at this level,” a Republican lobbyist with relationships in the Senate said. “They purposely brought these two guys in to help Jerry.”

The Republicans, after losing two seats in the Nov. 6 elections, need to gain six seats in 2014 to capture the majority. In statement provided to CQ Roll Call for this story, McConnell complimented Moran’s embrace of the NRSC’s new leadership structure. The minority leader’s office did not deny McConnell’s influence in the creation of this regime. Some Republican operatives have suggested that the Kentuckian’s involvement means he is particularly invested in, and responsible for, Moran’s success or failure.

“The chairman-elect met with every member of the caucus, took their input to heart, and I applaud his selection of vice chairs. We have a great team over at the NRSC to take the majority,” said McConnell, who is up for re-election. “Sen. Moran has already met with his NRSC leadership team several times, and they are hitting the ground running.”

A source familiar with Moran’s thinking conceded that the restructuring of the NRSC leadership was a late development, coming several months after the Kansan first told McConnell of his plans to run for chairman. It also came about in the midst of McConnell’s futile attempts to recruit another candidate for the job — along with Portman, Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Marco Rubio of Florida all said no.

Vice Chairmen Are No Figureheads

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