With 78 days until the November 2, midterm election, Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul continues to drive both the media coverage of, and key issues in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.
One solid indication that the election's outcome hinges on who best defines Rand Paul is that in two e-mail blasts on Friday, neither the Paul campaign or the Kentucky Democratic Party even mentioned Democratic opponent Jack Conway by name.
Paul has scheduled a two day "money bomb" later this week. The Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon says the effort is "to make sure we have the resources needed to send the message the Commonwealth demands a real voice in the US Senate, not the butt of a bad joke."
More often than not, Senate race media coverage involves questions about Paul, usually after he says something controversial, to one degree or another. For instance, after a Lexington Herald-Leader article quoted Paul as saying he did not consider drug abuse a “real pressing issue” in Appalachian Kentucky, Paul's new spokesman says the reporter misconstrued the remark:
When Paul told the Associated Press that “I don’t think it’s a real pressing issue,” he was responding to a question on whether voters would care who took the lead on enforcement efforts — the federal government or local governments, said his campaign spokesman, Gary Howard.
Despite the tremendous attention to his campaign in the last year, Paul's newcomer status and penchant for speaking his mind spark a frequent need for clarification, in particular how his limited government staunch ideology would practically apply to life in Kentucky.
National Democrats and the campaign of Attorney General Jack Conway are feeding some of that media coverage, in the hope that the more voters learn about Rand Paul, the less they will like him. It appears that Conway plans to run a conventional campaign, drive voter turnout and hope that the Paul campaign will collapse under the weight of too many doubts.
Yet, as the UK Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues' Al Cross points out in the Courier-Journal, Paul has far more say in the 2010 outcome than Conway:
The juice in this election belongs to the Republicans, who have squeezed it from anti-Obama feelings and Paul's strong philosophy. Yes, Paul is unusual and controversial, but voters are in search of something different, someone who will shake up the system. And with a weak economy, and national polls showing voters no longer think Democrats have better ideas, the race is still Paul's to lose. But he keeps giving Conway more ammunition.
The aforementioned media coverage, however, is how Paul is reloading his coffers for the Fall battle. A new fundraising letter marks one year since Paul announced his upstart candidacy and continues to tweak the noses of establishment Republicans:
I hope you’ve seen that I’m not just a run-of-the-mill Republican or even conservative. I come from the Liberty movement, the Tea Parties and the grassroots. I have listened to and helped amplify their concerns. My campaign is not being run so I can become part of some club in Washington DC.
I must once again ask for your help. Please join our moneybomb next Thursday and Friday, August 19 and 20th.
The fundraising effort by Republicans in Kentucky's Fifth Congressional District alleges unfair treatment in the media:
This last week the state and national media has come out swinging hard against Dr. Rand Paul, but if the momentum in Southeastern Kentucky is any indication of things to come! Watch out Washington D.C. because liberty is on its way!!!
The KDP Chairman, Dan Logsdon, is eager to plant any seeds of doubt:
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Rand's response to these allegations- even more troubling then his unwillingness to refute them - it's that he's been using them to help fill up his campaign war chest! After this story became public, Rand sent a fundraising email before providing Kentuckians with any real answers.
- Actual line in the KDP e-mail -- "CLICK HERE TO DONATE $100, $50 or $25 to keep Rand and the Aqua Buddha out of the Senate."
- Paul has announced a "Veterans For Paul" coalition with about 20 military veterans on the news release.
- Paul on one year since campaign launch: "It's been a great one and a long one."
- Speaking in Hindman, Paul campaigned more against President Obama than Conway, saying:
"Obama is stifling the coal industry and costing people jobs. His agenda is making hard-working Kentucky families suffer even more in an already bad economy."
- Bryan Mills, Laurel County Republican Party Chairman reports that a Somerset, Kentucky Rand Paul fundraiser pulled in $22,000. Former Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Forgy was the Master of Ceremonies.
In addition to Al Cross' critique of Paul's knowledge of Kentucky, the Kentucky Kurmudgeon, Larry Dale Keeling, adds his two cents in the wake of the bizarre "Aqua Buddha" story:
Kentuckians should be more concerned that, as an adult U.S. Senate candidate, Paul pegs that weird meter on an almost daily basis. And never more so than when he demonstrates that, after 17 years of residing in Kentucky, he doesn’t know diddly about the state.