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First faceoff reveals campaign playbook for Conway, Paul

by Joe Arnold


Posted on July 8, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 8 at 5:30 PM

In the first face to face meeting since the primary of Kentucky's U.S. Senate candidates, both tried to paint the other as out of step with Kentucky.

The main themes of the fall campaign are now established.  Republican Rand Paul says he's the only candidate who will challenge the way Washington works.  Democrat Jack Conway says though some changes are needed, government is not necessarily the problem.

Speaking at the joint session of the Kentucky County Judge Executives Association and Kentucky Municipal Clerks Association, each candidate strained to define both his own views and the views of his opponent. 

"(Conway) will have to distance himself from this president and his party if he wishes to have any chance in Kentucky," Paul said, "We'll see if he can do this and do this in a believable way."

While Paul tried to paint Conway in the same light as President Obama and national Democrats, Conway dismissed Paul's Tea Party message as fear mongering.

"Are we going to play to your hopes? Or are we going to play to your fears?" Conway said, "I know there's a lot of passion out there and I know that there is a lot of anger out there. But the question is, are we going to use this passion and this anger, are we going to use it in a constructive way or in a destructive fashion?"

Before the gloves came off, a handshake between Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway, and one area of agreement.

"There is a problem, a serious problem and I agree with Rand Paul on this," Conway said, "There is a lack of fiscal responsibility in Washington right now. We spend too much."

And both say America's best days are ahead --with Paul adding one condition.

"I think we are in perilous times, I think there is a day of reckoning coming and I fear a second dip into a recession and if Jack and President Obama get their way on raising taxes, it could be a depression," Paul said.

"This is about efficient government," Conway countered, "effective government, prudent regulation and regulators who do their jobs."

The task before each candidate with less than four months until the election is to stand firm on his own message while defining his opponent as out of the mainstream. 

"He supports his President on cap and trade," Paul argued, "He supports his president on Obamacare.  These are things that are not popular in Kentucky and he will spend the next six months I believe trying to run away from President Obama's positions."

"Let me be clear on this point because my opponent has mischaracterized my position," said Conway "I oppose cap and trade.  I will oppose cap and trade as Kentucky's next U.S. Senator.and I will not support a program that raises our electricity rates and that hurts Kentucky working families."

Whether Conway has consistently been opposed to "cap and trade" was a talking point of his Democratic primary rival, Daniel Mongiardo.

Conway blasted Paul over his statements on the campaign trail.

"Accountability is not going on national TV and saying that's it's un-American to after British Petroleum.  Accountability is not having a world view where you think that government should basically never touch business, whatsoever," Conway continued, "Accountability is not musing out loud that if you were Governor Fletcher that you would just pardon yourself and all your aides.  Accountability is not saying you favor term limits except when they apply to you."

Regarding BP, Paul retorted, "I don't want them to go out of business when they can't pay for the mess, and that's what that kind of rhetoric could do."

Both call for changes -- but while Paul is calling for a revolution, Conway says he is a moderate Democrat.

"We need earmark reform but I'm not going to call for an end to all earmarks," Conway said.

"Government is raging out of control and we have to rein it back in," replied Paul.

The bruises from each candidates primary fight are still showing. Rand Paul echoed the attack of Mongiardo on Conway taking contributions from utility interests while having a role in regulating utility rates. Jack Conway echoed Trey Grayson's criticism of Paul's role as a leader of the Tea Party movement rather than focusing on Kentucky interests.