Was it a missed opportunity for McConnell's GOP challenger to miss Republican events?

08/04/2013 05:33 PM

The tea party challenger to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell gave a solid first showing from the Fancy Farm picnic, but Louisville businessman Matt Bevin may have missed an opportunity to win over Republicans by skipping the GOP’s breakfast and dinner speaking engagements on Friday and Saturday morning.

The annual Fancy Farm Picnic provides candidates a chance to mingle with voters and be heard by the state – and, in this year’s case, the nation with a broadcast on CSPAN. While Bevin had a strong speech, he did offer McConnell’s campaign some fodder when he reached out to the the Democratic portion of the crowd and said, “You can cheer for this too. You want a better life. We’re on the same team, I’ll tell you that much.”

Beyond the picnic, though, the local GOP events in Western Kentucky leading up to the speaking event have become nearly as important for candidates.

Republicans held a chicken dinner in Calvert City the Friday before Fancy Farm in which many of the party’s most dedicated activists attended. The even bigger event was the Saturday morning pre-Fancy Farm breakfast in Mayfield, in which as many as 400 Republicans packed the cafeteria of the Graves County High School.

Bevin, who will need to win over establishment Republicans to win the party’s nomination, said he was not asked to attend either event. Kentucky has closed primary elections which only members of the party can select the nominee.

An organizer at the chicken dinner told Pure Politics that if Bevin had asked to speak or showed up, he could have taken the stage.

“I was asked to be (at the Fancy Farm Picnic). It was the only place in the Fancy Farm arena that I was asked to be in the last two days, and that’s OK,” Bevin said. “I think my message will be heard loud and clear…I think the people of Kentucky are hungry for a change. They are tired of 30-years of representation by a guy who does not share Kentucky values.”

A campaign spokesperson for Bevin told Pure Politics he attended the RedState convention in New Orleans on Friday.

McConnell did not attend the GOP chicken dinner either, but he did address the activists at the breakfast in Mayfield.

Phil Moffett, the 2011 Republican gubernatorial primary contender who attracted strong tea party support, said he thought both Bevin and McConnell were missing an opportunity to share their message by not attending the GOP chicken dinner in Calvert City on Friday.

“I believe in competition, and I think since we don’t have term limits we need primaries…so we in the Republican party can see what we can choose from,” Moffet said outside of the Chicken Dinner. “We need to challenge ourselves and think about the issues and debate those issues, and try to become a better party through that process.”

Western Kentucky University junior Dalton Workman, who is active in the GOP , also attended the Chicken Dinner Friday night.

“I think anybody that wants to run for office should have the right to speak if they want to. I don’t know if he wanted to speak and he wasn’t allowed to or what all happened there,” Workman said.


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