U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that Congress is on track to have no deal before the Dec. 31 deadline for the "fiscal cliff."One key to the negotiations is the brokering abilities of Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. A recent New York Times story notes this: Lawmakers from both parties say Mr. McConnell could be the key to a resolution. He has played the role of adjudicator for Congressional Republicans before, during last year’s fight over a payroll tax extension and the battle between Democrats and Republicans over how, or if, to pay for an emergency disaster financing bill.Yet the same Times story suggests that McConnell may stay out of the brokering because he's up for re-election in 2014 and wants to avoid a primary challenge. McConnell may prefer to let President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner resolve the looming "fiscal cliff" matter instead of inciting Republican elements which are opposed to the compromises with Democrats that any deal would include, writes The Times' Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauer.Salon's Steve Kornaki picked up on this same point, noting the Tea Party's past effect on Kentucky elections. The problem, of course, is that the Tea Party’s power resides in Republican primaries, where conservative purists wreaked considerable havoc in the past two election cycles. This included, famously, McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, where the minority leader’s protégé was crushed in a 2010 GOP Senate primary by Rand Paul.McConnell has taken steps that would cover that flank. His campaign manager, Jesse Benton,has the Tea Party bona fidesof having worked on campaigns for Rand Paul and Ron Paul.