National media remains fixated on Ky. Senate race

05/25/2010 12:54 AM

Like the organic way in which the tea party movement morphed into a powerful political force, Rand Paul’s mouth has similarly touched off a national press storm that just keeps going.

It’s been a long time since Kentucky politics have gotten and held the attention of national news networks.

They briefly perked up last fall when Kentucky’s junior U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning put a hold a bill extending unemployment insurance benefits because Congress didn’t provide a way to pay for that added cost. But that firestorm was limited to Washington and lasted less than 36 hours. Even two years ago, the national press gave only halfhearted interest in Kentucky’s late presidential primary even though the Democratic contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama wasn’t officially decided.

Paul, however, apparently has media staying power a week after his win in the GOP primary and six days after his comments questioning a provision in the 1964 Civil Rights Act went viral.

One of Politico’s top reporters, Jonathan Martin, spent Saturday at Kentucky Republican Party headquarters with  the state’s press corps to see what Paul and other Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell had to say. He filed an in depth article chronicling the discomfort among many at the GOP unity rally and reported that former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove was among those who told Paul he was hurting himself by continuing to talk. on Monday published a piece looking at some issues that Paul and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who pressed Paul about his views on the Civil Rights Act last week, might agree. (Chief among them: concern over the Bush administration’s position that the executive branch can circumvent congressional approval for acts of war or other measures.)

And Keith Olbermann on MSNBC has made Paul references for nearly a week straight. Olbermann spent nearly seven minutes on his “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” show Monday night talking about Paul and discussing his comments and handling of the comments with Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis.

“The question I have is: Why was he doing national interviews to begin with? I mean here is a state race … If I was advising him, let’s focus on state media. That’s where his constituents would be focused on,” Kofinis said. “He was doing national press because he clearly wants to propagate his national philosophy, his perspective on politics. That is what the tea party is about.

“And if you’re going to do that, you’re playing a dangerous game because you need to be prepared to answer the tough questions — I don’t even consider them to be that tough, to be honest,” he added.

The national media onslaught about the race continues Tuesday because Democratic candidate Jack Conway will get his shot. Conway is slated to be on Olbermann’s show at 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Conway campaign’s Facebook page.

- Ryan Alessi


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