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August 09, 2013 3:55 PM Guns, Freedom and Coal

By Ed Kilgore

I was leaning over the computer struggling to keep my eyes open on this August Friday afternoon, when I ran across Alec MacGillis’ piece at TNR on Mitch McConnell’s new campaign ad, heavily focused on footage from Fancy Farm, a big Western Kentucky political speechapaloosa.

I was at Fancy Farm and it was … nothing like what is depicted here. There was plenty energy at the event, as there was bound to be with such a high-profile race looming in the state. But the energy resided disproportionately on the side of the challengers, Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell gave a feisty enough speech, complete with an opening shot at Grimes’ father, but his support had a distinctly manufactured quality, consisting primarily of young college-types bused in from elsewhere in matching red T-shirts and then bused back out after McConnell was done speaking, as if the campaign did not even want the youngsters exposed to the charms of Bevin, who spoke last and, almost everyone agrees, pretty much stole the show.
But this ad manages to make McConnell’s turn at Fancy Farm out to be as electrifying as Hendrix at Woodstock—that is, with a denim shirt and pleated slacks in place of tasseled shirt and red bandana.

So I watched the ad:

Yeah, it’s a little over the top, all right. There’s one supporter, looking and sounding rather hysterical, who says: “He speaks when he speaks, and his words are for Kentucky!” Another says: “I’m here to support Senator McConnell because he’s for guns, freedom and coal!” Something tells me that message was poll-tested. Probably in Eastern Kentucky it would have been “coal, freedom and guns.”

All this passion is interesting, since it’s generally conceded that Mitch McConnell doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of affection, much less wild enthusiasm, even among the folks who vote for him. I don’t know if the idea is that Mitch-loving might be contagious, or if the ad is for the benefit of the senator’s own ego. But it’s unintentionally very funny, and a bit scary.


Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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