Flubs, attacks and other storylines to watch at Fancy Farm 2010

08/03/2010 01:21 PM

This political speaking event at this weekend’s Fancy Farm picnic will kick off the fall election season.

So here are five storylines to watch heading into Fancy Farm 2010, which will feature U.S. Senate candidates Rand Paul, the Republican and Jack Conway, the Democrat, as the main event:

Whose appearance will turn into a sound bite? The most Youtubed moment from last year’s Fancy Farm was Conway’s salty language when describing his ability to take political attacks.  His choice of phrases inspired video spoofs as well as a new no-profanity rule starting this year.

“At Fancy Farm the biggest thing to watch is who makes the misstep,” said Tres Watson, the chairman of the Kentucky Young Republicans Federation and a political consultant. “Last year it was Jack Conway. Who cracks this year?”

Dale Emmons, a Richmond-based campaign consultant, said that Conway’s flub last year gave him an idea of how Fancy Farm works.

But for those hoping for another Conway-like moment in 2010, should look elsewhere for it, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, said.

“In light of what happened with Jack last year and what Dr. Paul ran into earlier this year, I doubt you see that,” Grayson said. “If they asked me, I’d tell them to stick to the script.”

Who goes on the attack and who plays defense?

The most interesting speeches about the U.S. Senate race might be what is said about Conway and Paul by others, said Grayson, who ran against Paul in the GOP primary this spring.

Having attended Fancy Farm every year since 2002, Grayson referenced a trick McConnell and out-going U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning use to play, with “the one up for election playing good cop and the other playing bad cop and attacking.”

Grayson predicted McConnell would focus more on a trio of national Democrats: President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“I remember last year when I mentioned Obama and then paused, all the Republicans’ booed loudly,” Grayson said.  Name-dropping them “is like red meat at Fancy Farm.”

It’s less certain about who will go on the offense for the Democrats. Beshear is that party’s big-name speaker and could serve as an advocate for Conway but Beshear is preparing for his re-election next year and has his first term to defend. But the big question will be about the approach of Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who lost to Conway in the primary and continues to tussle with the attorney general over campaign debt

“What does the lieutenant governor say about the Senate race? Does he endorse Jack? If he doesn’t, what does he say?” Grayson asked. “And will Beshear take time from his own race to defend Jack?”

As for the two Senate candidates, most observers expected them to keep their speeches low-key.

Emmons said he believes Conway will prominently mention his family’s roots in Western Kentucky to discuss farming issues.

“I expect to Conway to talk about Paul’s lack of understanding of farming,” Emmons said.

Watson said he expects Paul to stick close to the issue-heavy speech about government spending and debt that he gave in 2009.

“Rand is very much about the issues and I think his speech will reflect that,” Watson said.

Who is running in 2011?

Rounds will be made. Trial balloons will be floated. And intentions could be announced.

Fancy Farm sometimes serves as a launching pad for prospective candidates for the following year’s elections.

With Beshear seeking a second term, several prospective challengers have been itching to get in the race.

State Senate President David Williams recently admitted his interest in forming a ticket with Agricultural Commissioner Richie Farmer, who is term-limited in his current office.  Williams will attend the Graves County Republican breakfast, while Farmer isn’t scheduled to appear at the picnic.

Republicans Phil Moffett, a Louisville businessman, and state Rep. Mike Harmon of Junction City, formally announced last week. An independent slate with Gatewood Galbraith and Dea Riley – both of Lexington – already filed their paperwork to raise money.

Watson said he expects Beshear’s speech to set up next year’s race, but not necessarily attack Moffett or any other potential ticket — Republican or Democratic.

“The governor’s speech will have to have some undercurrents” to 2011, Watson said. “Beshear will try to tout all the positive things he’s done for the state. You can’t run all negative. But it will be a springboard for 2011.”

Meanwhile Grayson expects most of the buzz among politicos in the crowd this year might be to focus on the governor’s race, not the U.S. Senate race, saying the two “may be even.”

Plus, potential candidates for other offices might emerge or at least work the crowd, Grayson said. Grayson, for instance, is ending his second term as Secretary of State and is term-limited from seeking another term. Not only does that open up the Secretary of State’s office for someone else but Grayson hasn’t ruled out running for governor or attorney general. Also Democratic state Auditor Crit Luallen and Farmer, the agriculture commissioner, also are term limited.

Will a competitive state Senate election make any headlines? The state Senate race for the 2nd District,  represented by Sen. Bob Leeper, a Paducah independent, will have it’s own small spotlight at this year’s event.

The district doesn’t include Fancy Farm, but covers nearby McCracken, Ballard and Marshall counties.

Leeper’s challengers Mike East, a Republican, and Rex Smith, a Democrat, will both speak at the picnic. But Leeper told cn|2 Politics he declined his invitation to the event, saying Fancy Farm is for those running for statewide office and is outside his district.

“It’s a great venue if you’re running for governor,” Leeper said. “For the 2nd district, I’m not so sure.”

Instead, Leeper said he would hold an event in Paducah the Friday before Fancy Farm, the third such year he’s done.

But Emmons said Leeper’s no-show could be a major misstep.

“If Bob Leeper doesn’t show it says more than anything else,” Emmons said. “There’s no question about that.”

But Grayson, who said he supports Leeper, said the fact that Fancy Farm sits outside Leeper’s district clears the senator of missing the picnic.

“I wouldn’t read too much into that,” Grayson said.

What will having a national figure do for Republicans? It’s the first time in a long time that a prominent congressional leader not from Kentucky will parachute into the state during the Fancy Farm weekend.

Republican House Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia will be the keynote speaker at the Graves County Republican Party breakfast before the Fancy Farm picnic.

Even though Cantor won’t be at the main event, his presence is still a big deal, Grayson said.

“It’s great we’re having a national figure coming in,” he said. “I can’t remember having one as long as I’ve been going.”

“It’s a sign of strength of the Republican Party in Kentucky, but also to the legacy of Fancy Farm,” Grayson added.

- Kenny Colston

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