By hiring Benton, McConnell shows he believes he can’t simply fight the Tea Party.

Along the same lines, McConnell and the rest of the Senate GOP leadership reached out to a Tea Party freshman-elect who knocked off an establishment pick in the primary, naming Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of two vice chairmen of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Rob Portman, a member in good standing of the GOP establishment, will be NRSC vice chairman for finance — he is the liaison to the party’s K Street, Wall Street and big business base. Cruz’s job title is “vice chair for grassroots outreach,” making him the liaison to the Tea Party base. Operatives in the insurgent wing of the party think the party hopes to use Cruz to mollify Tea Partiers unhappy with the establishment’s chosen candidates.