Fancy Farm 'tests carefully scripted campaigns'


by Joe Arnold

Posted on August 1, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - It's a tradition like Thanksgiving with your in-laws. Voices will be raised and egos bruised, but there's lots of good food.

Courier-Journal Political Writer Joe Gerth is back for another helping, yet warns of the recent trend of the crowd drowning-out candidates rather than a well-placed heckle or two.

“The folks at St. Jerome Catholic Church are trying to get a handle on that this year, trying to urge the campaigns and the parties and the labor unions to tone it down a bit,” Gerth said. “Yelling is fine. Just don't chant and make it so it's nothing but a shoutfest.”

To the Lexington Herald-Leader's Sam Youngman, Fancy Farm is a rare test for carefully scripted campaigns.

Youngman said, “I'm curious to see how they respond to the heckling. I'm always eager to hear these candidates when they have to face actual voters, and they can't sort of hide behind press releases.

Youngman said the stakes are raised this year as national reporters parachute into Kentucky's U.S. Senate race with little time to pick up the nuances and back stories of the campaign.

He said, “So they see a very limited window of what these candidates have to say, so if there's a mistake, it's amplified exponentiall.”

The speeches are expected to be more of the same. Grimes will paint McConnell as out of touch with real Kentuckians. McConnell will link Grimes to President Barack Obama.

The campaigns aren't tipping their hand into their political theater plans. McConnell's past campaigns have mastered the practice, portraying Ben Chandler to one of the seven dwarfs, and nick-naming Steve Beshear as casino operator "Easy Money Steve."

“I don't think anyone has ever won because of what they did at Fancy Farm, but there are people who have lost or taken hits to their campaign,” Gerth said.

Like Jack Conway, whose 2009 Fancy Farm speech triggered a new rule at the church picnic, no profanity.

And just like Thanksgiving with the in-laws, they'll do it all again next year.