McConnell, Lunsford set “Lincoln-Douglas style” debate in northern KY

Reporter Pat Crowley with the Kentucky Enquirer is reporting that Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Bruce Lunsford will meet Sept. 13 in Erlanger for a different kind of political forum.

Apparently the debate, which is sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, will allow the U.S. Senate candidates an opportunity to argue more directly and question each other rather than just responding to questions from moderators.

Not sure if televised coverage of that debate will reach western Kentucky, but it sure sounds like one to watch. It begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Receptions and Conference Center, 1379 Donaldson Road, in Erlanger.

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McConnell on McCain’s VP pick

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell on Friday said Republican presidential candidate John McCain found a reformer without Washington ties in his newly selected running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

During a stop at the Messenger-Inquirer Friday shortly after McCain announced his selection, McConnell said that Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden instead of his primary opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton “was an opening” for McCain to reach out to women voters, which he appears to have done in selecting Palin.

“Clearly picking a little-known governor from Alaska was an effort to appeal to women voters,” McConnell said.

McConnell said he wasn’t in the loop on Palin’s selection, but he offered his take on the rationale behind selecting the governor, who is only in her second year in office.

“(McCain) was looking for someone who was not of Washington, who has a reputation as a reformer like him and on the foreign policy stuff, he’s going to say, ‘I’ve got that experience. I don’t need it in a vice president,'” McConnell said. “I think it’ll be an exciting choice. It surprised everybody, and I think we’ll all become experts on Sarah Palin in the next few days.”

When asked who he would have selected had he been in Obama’s shoes, McConnell said U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, who was on the short list for the Democrats.

McConnell declined to say whether Palin would have been his to pick for McCain’s running mate, and that “we’ll see in the end whether it works.”

Read about McConnell’s take on McCain’s pick and more about his stops in Owensboro in Saturday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

Lunsford tries to build national support in Denver

Trey Pollard with PolitickerKY.com has a piece about Democrat Bruce Lunsford’s efforts to boost national support for his bid for the U.S. Senate during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Lunsford tells Pollard that his campaign against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell should become a “national race” and enable him to draw on a national fundraising base to compete with McConnell’s well-funded effort.

“I’m very comfortable that by getting people at a national level to pay attention to this race, when it tightens down in the end, we’ll be able to get some support nationwide that will really help us,” Lunsford told Pollard.

While Lunsford is working to build that national support, his campaign and the Kentucky Democratic Party have boosted their campaign efforts in Kentucky, including opening a “coordinated campaign office” in Owensboro.

The office here opened recently in the same spot the Obama campaign occupied this spring, and the windows are already painted with the “Ditch Mitch” logo that has become so widely used by Democrats so far this campaign season. Continue reading

The mystery of the banana continues

Questions surrounding the unnamed man who approached U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell with a banana at the Fancy Farm picnic last weekend remain unanswered, with even the senator in the dark about the offering.

The man, whose identity is not known, was grabbed by Kentucky State Police troopers when he came from the back of the stage and offered the fruit to McConnell as U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning was approaching the podium to speak Saturday afternoon.

The man was released by the troopers without being charged since he did not appear to intend any harm or to threaten the senator, and the man left the picnic grounds, according to reports.

When asked about the incident Thursday morning prior to his speech at the Rooster Booster Breakfast at the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, McConnell said he was as perplexed by the offering as the rest of the onlookers.

“Actually, I think he was trying to hand it to Jim Bunning,” McConnell said. “(The man) was friendly enough. I didn’t need a banana and neither did Bunning.”

Many who attended the annual picnic in Graves County said this year’s event seemed tamer and more scripted than in past years, and McConnell attributed that in part to the dozens of video cameras that now seem to accompany any political race at the top of the ticket.

“I think the speakers who are running are typically a little more cautious in the era of YouTube and constant coverage,” McConnell said. “I think that’s what you really saw down there at Fancy Farm, which is always disappointing to the reporters.”

FactCheck.org takes on U.S. Senate race ads

FactCheck.org took a look at a recent advertisement in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race between Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Bruce Lunsford, and found it came up short in its claims.

The site, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, checks the accuracy of information presented in political advertisements, and is looking here at McConnell’s latest ad that hammers Lunsford over Kentucky’s gasoline tax.

The ad claims that Lunsford lobbied for the state’s automatic annual gasoline tax increase in 1980 while he was an aide to then-Gov. John Y. Brown and blames Lunsford for today’s high gas prices.

“The Lunsford automatic gas tax has already cost Kentuckians hundreds of millions and today, Lunsford wants to pump taxpayers for even more,” the announcer in the ad claims.

FactCheck.org finds that the automatic increase approved then has only accounted for a 12.1-cent increase in the price of gasoline in Kentucky since.

The group also finds that Lunsford’s response, which alleges McConnell received $3 million from “big oil” also stretches the truth.

McConnell’s own campaign committee has received only $650,000 from the oil and gas industries during his 24-year career in the U.S. Senate, while the rest of the $3 million Lunsford claims came from “Big Oil” went to the National Republican Senatorial Committee while McConnell was chairman.

Read FactCheck.org’s complete analysis here.

More news from Fancy Farm

Some more tidbits and notes from the hours spent out in the heat at St. Jerome Catholic Church today –

– Though the speeches at Fancy Farm have come to a close, Rep. Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook noted that many of the successful slogans, phrases and speeches, as well as the gaffs, might continue on into the fall campaign season. Below are a few of the interesting ones I saw today –

– U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell supporters holding up a cutout of Gov. Steve Beshear in horse riding gear and shouting “Tally Ho!”

– Bruce Lunsford supporters with signs that had McConnell’s face superimposed on that of Alfred P. Newman saying, “What, me worry?”

– McConnell supporters dressed as Middle Eastern sheiks and one as Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez handing out dollar bills in thanks for not expanding domestic oil production.

– Best nickname was from Democrat Heather Ryan who is running in the 1st District against U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, who she dubbed “Exxon Eddie” for his ties to the oil industry.

– Former Congressman and state legislator Carroll Hubbard used a line several times on Friday and Saturday to describe what he says is the control state Senate President David Williams has over the 21-member Republican majority in that chamber – “When David Williams takes a sleeping pill, and 21 senators take a nap.” Hubbard, a Democrat, is running against incumbent state Sen. Ken Winters, a Murray Republican.

– Adkins tried to initiate a new tradition at Fancy Farm this year, taken from Hillbilly Days in Pike County, with a bluegrass band beginning to play to drown out speakers who have run on too long. The band only began playing for one speaker – U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning – on Saturday, which prompted Adkins to say, “Let’s give that band another hand.”

– The biggest mystery of the day was an unidentified man from the crowd who got on stage, walked up the Mitch McConnell and offered him a banana. The long-haired man was hustled off the stage by Kentucky State Police troopers, who apparently released the man without any charges. The meaning of the banana offering has not been determined.

Gas prices top talk at Republican breakfast

Prices at the pump dominated the talk this morning at Graves County High School in Mayfield where Republicans from around the state gathered in preparation for this afternoon’s speeches at the Fancy Farm picnic.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell headlined the event, and hammered home that he believes gas prices are the top concern among the public. McConnell argued that Democratic leaders in Congress are standing in the way of increasing oil production through off-shore drilling and the conversion of oil shale, options that some offer could be environmentally unsound.

When asked about stalled talks in the House this week over the expansion of oil drilling on the outer continental shelf, McConnell said he expects the debate to resume when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.

McConnell dismissed the argument that a drop in the price of oil won’t come in the short term by allowing expanded production in a limited way.

“Markets predict the future,” McConnell said. “Right now, they look at the Democratic nominee for president and the Democratic majority and see they don’t want to do anything about this.” Continue reading