At Fancy Farm, Republicans Focus on National Issues, Democrats Quiet on Obama

by Gabe Bullard on August 6, 2011

The only elections on the ballot this year in Kentucky are for statewide offices. But candidates at this weekend’s Fancy Farm Picnic spent much of their time discussing national politics.

The references to national politics started with the first political speech…delivered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who used the Congressional bickering over raising the debt ceiling to criticize Democratic candidate for Governor Steve Beshear.

“You may have noticed that Steve and President Obama are singing the same tune these days. They both claim they’ve improved the economy,” McConnell said.

McConnell then introduced his fellow Republican, junior Senator Rand Paul. McConnell called Paul a “rising star,” though the two disagreed on every step toward the debt ceiling compromise. Paul is an ideological leader of the Tea Party movement, and he had a number of fans in the audience who were fiercely loyal to him, more so than to the GOP itself.

Like McConnell, Paul criticized local Democratic candidates for being too politically similar to the president. That’s a claim few of the candidates disputed, and none acknowledged, since none of the Democrats spoke in support of the President or the Senate majority.

Most of the other GOP candidates who spoke compared their opponents to national Democrats. Republican Attorney General candidate Todd P’Pool and Secretary of State candidate Bill Johnson blasted the healthcare overhaul law. Several candidates also referenced the fact that Beshear did not meet with President Obama when he visited troops at Fort Campbell, even though the governor was not invited.

The Democrats did not defend the president. That was a job left to their supporters in the crowd, though many of them were lukewarm on federal Democrats.

Louisville union member Aubrey Cheatham supports Democrat Jack Conway’s bid for re-election to the Attorney General’s office. He says the situation in Washington may have been better had Conway defeated  Republican Rand Paul in last year’s Senate race, but he doesn’t think it would’ve changed the recent debate over raising the federal debt ceiling.

“It was just a ridiculous thing,” Cheatum said. “They should’ve got on with the people’s business. It was made out into a political thing by both sides.”

Many of the signs conservative audience members waved during the speeches focused on federal, and not state, issues.

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