LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- With no scheduled Kentucky elections in 2013, the 133rd Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County was set to be unremarkable.
Yet two 2014 U.S. Senate challengers have drawn a giant target on the back of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and in the process turned a potential yawner into one of the most anticipated Fancy Farm's in recent memory.
McConnell will be joined under the ceiling fans of the St. Jerome Catholic Church stage by Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's first term Secretary of State and Republican primary challenger Matt Bevin, a wealthy Louisville investment adviser whose ultra-conservative message has picked up national endorsements and a tea party backing.
“They are different candidates,” said former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton. “The people of Kentucky have a real choice.”
Patton said the race is about the future.
Grimes has been labeled as an honest, sincere and natural candidate that will continue to define herself. Her spokesman Jonathan Hurst believes that she has already set the tone for the campaign.
But to McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, Grimes hasn’t. He argues that she needs to speak more specifically about the issues.
“We’d invite Secretary Grimes to stop talking in broad generalizations and platitudes and start talking about the issues,” Benton said. Grimes will only get so far with campaign slogans, Benton continued, stressing the public needs to know what she stands for and what she believes in.
“I think she is someone that is very clever and will say whatever it takes to try and get elected,” Benton told WHAS11.
Grimes continue to prepare for her campaign leading up to and beyond Fancy Farm, Hurst said, explaining that Grimes has prepared a speech that will lay out new policies and show her intelligence and wittiness.
“She wants to reflect that she is someone that people can really connect with,” Hurst said.
While Grimes appears to have devoted much of July to preparing for the campaign, fundraising and making announcements, McConnell's U.S. Senate duties allowed him only a few appearances in the Bluegrass.
Fancy Farm marks the beginning of a five week congressional recess, allowing McConnell the opportunity to re-engage Kentucky voters, starting with Saturday's political speeches. McConnell is regarded as a Fancy Farm pro, piggy-backing on the event's over-the-top nature to produce memorable zingers and savaging political cartoons, in the flesh.
Yet his campaign manager said McConnell will not only deliver zingers, but work to make the case that he should continue to represent Kentucky in the Senate.
“He’s the person that can deliver for this state. We’re going to talk to every single Kentuckian that we can to make that case,” said Benton. “We plan for success.”
One similarity between Grimes and McConnell is that they will make sure they have fun while at Fancy Farm. They both also plan on laying out the serious issues currently facing Kentucky.
“This becomes such serious business that I think a lot of times people stop having fun,” said Benton. “We all need to have fun sometimes, both sides of the aisle.”