Assigned to a court sentencing on Friday, I did not get a chance to follow up on Thursday's fascinating, marathon morning of U.S. Senate campaigning by Rand Paul and Jack Conway at the Kentucky Farm Bureau.
Here are a few observations and links to other media's work:
- Though the Farm Bureau does not endorse candidates and avoided any sort of critique of either candidate's performance, I made contact later with several people who were in attendance who commented that Conway seemed more conversant in agricultural issues. One observor noted that Conway's experience as an attorney serves him well in this regard, as he is able to digest and repeat the relevant information to specific crowds.
- The Conway campaign takes that one step further, saying that Paul is not only unfamiliar with ag policy, but with Kentucky. The campaign cites Paul answering a questions from a Details magazine reporter about the significance of Harlan County to Kentucky history. While Paul suggested 'It's famous for, like, The Dukes of Hazzard," the reporter points out the county is (in)famous for "its violent coal battles."
- The Conway campaign redistributed this Joe Gerth forum follow up in the Courier-Journal: "Renewing his attack on federal farm subsidies, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul told a Kentucky Farm Bureau audience Thursday that three agriculture companies have received a total of more than $1 billion in aid…But, in fact, the 'companies' are all cooperatives that are owned by thousands of farmers. And the federal payments have gone to the farmers who own them over the past 15 years - as the Paul campaign later acknowledged in an interview."
The Courier-Journal's James Carroll observed that neither candidate appears to be "enjoying himself:"
Having parachuted in from Washington to watch Paul and Conway debate on Thursday before the Kentucky Farm Bureau in Louisville, I was struck by an admittedly subjective impression: these two gentlemen are quite somber fellows.
- The Farm Bureau Board room features a massive horseshoe table that seats dozens of people. While Conway shook the hand of each person around the table when he entered the room, Paul simply took his seat.
- CNHI's Ronnie Ellis followed up to reveal that Paul's father-in-law received "relatively small farm subsidy payments for 12 years:"
Farm subsidies have become a key issue in the Senate race between Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon, and Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway. Rural and socially conservative areas of the state – especially the agriculturally dominated First District – are considered key to the race. Paul openly courts the conservative vote but his position on farm subsidies troubles some in the farm community.
- Perhaps the most amazing quote of the day was Paul admitting that he is unsure what positions he may have taken in the past:
"People say, 'Did you say this?' And it's like, 'Well, I don't know.' It's been twenty years of me poppin' off and saying what I thought. But I don't think that I've ever said that I was for getting rid of the Department of Agriculture. If I did say that, it's not my position."
- While speaking to the Farm Bureau, made his strongest statement yet in support of Mitch McConnell as Republican Leader of the Senate, he seemed to backtrack when the Herald-Leader's Jack Brammer pressed him on it during a news conference.
- During the Conway news conference, I reviewed the Democrats conservative positions on several issues, asking him if he is against cap and trade, believes the federal government has abrogated its responsibility on immigration, does not want the Bush administration tax cuts including the suspension of the estate tax to expire, among other issues, why shouldn't Kentucky just vote for a Republican? Conway took umbrage with the premise of my question.
- Paul, meanwhile, signaled where the campaign is eventually headed, saying that Christian conservatives will not "accept the other side being pro-abortion."