On the Road to Fancy Farm

Friday, August 1st, 2014

SMITHLAND, Ky. — On my trip to western Kentucky, it was nice to get off the highway and take state road 453 north to Smithland. Passing a yard piled high with fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, and a field of grazing goats, the drive took me through the small town and ended at the confluence of the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers.

It’s a beautiful Kentucky landmark.

During the Civil War, Smithland played an important role because of its location. Riverboat pilots were picked up here to take boats up the Cumberland to Clarksville and Nashville, Tenn. That made it an important center for commercial trade, according to the historical marker that overlooks the rivers. In 1864, Smithland also was a recruiting post for the Union Army, especially for African-American troops, and a training camp for new soldiers heading south.

These days, though, Smithland is stop on the long road to Fancy Farm as Alison Lundergan Grimes brought her U.S. Senate campaign bus to town on Thursday.

Grimes-bus

Alison Lundergan Grimes arrives in Smithland on Thursday.

She started the day in Morganfield, attended a meet and greet at the Webster County Courthouse in Dixon, grabbed lunch at Just-A-Burg’r in Marion, and arrived in Smithland by mid-afternoon.

Grimes-Mitchell

Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Don Mitchell introduces Alice Lundergan Grimes to a crowd in Smithland.

At Smiley’s Levee Cafe, Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Don Mitchell fired up the gathering with his introduction of the Kentucky Secretary of State. The young candidate launched into a litany of comments attacking her opponent, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Grimes called the Senate minority leader’s trip to Saturday’s Fancy Farm picnic “the Mitch McConnell farewell tour.”

Grimes-cafe

Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks at Smiley’s Levee Cafe in Smithland.

Later in the day, the bus took Grimes and her entourage to the McCracken County Alben Barkley Dinner, named for the Kentucky native who served as U.S. Senator and Harry Truman’s Vice President. The rally also brought state Democratic office holders Attorney General Jack Conway, an announced 2015 gubernatorial candidate, Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, and Auditor Adam Edelen to the packed hall.

Grimes-Barley Dinner

Alison Lundergan Grimes at the McCracken County Alben Barkley Dinner in Paducah.

Grimes hit her main themes and asked the gathering if “they were ready for a new face of leadership” in Washington. She’ll have another day of campaign events before her face-to-face confrontation with Sen. McConnell at Fancy Farm. In fact the last meeting of the two candidates took place a year ago on the stage of the St. Jerome Catholic Church picnic.

Everybody has something to say about the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky. Members of the national and international press are expected at the gathering on Saturday along with what organizers think may be one of the biggest crowds in the 135 year history of the event.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul recently told me that he believes the race is attracting so much interest outside of Kentucky because of its national implications.

KET’s broadcast coverage of Fancy Farm begins tonight at 8 as Comment on Kentucky airs from the picnic grounds with host Bill Bryant along with Ronnie Ellis, Joe Gerth, and Sam Youngman.

Then Renee Shaw and I will bring you all the candidate speeches on Saturday. Our broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. on KET, or you can watch us online at KET.org/live.

A Todd Tale Worth Hearing

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Charles David “Chuck” Todd has a way of getting the attention of his audience no matter where he is. Whether he’s behind the anchor desk at The Daily Rundown on MSNBC or speaking to a record crowd at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in Louisville, he manages to slip a phrase or two into his remarks that people remember.

Example: At last week’s speech to the Chamber, Todd was in the middle of an explanation about polls and voters when he made reference to “older women in the 40- to 55-year-old demographic.”

In seconds, an audible “ooh” rose from the assembled crowd, mostly from the females in attendance. Did the NBC Chief White House Correspondent just put women between the ages of 40 and 55 in the “older” category?

When Todd, who is 42, heard the response, he stopped and leaned over to ask someone at one of the front tables if he had uttered something he shouldn’t have. When told what he said, Todd put his hands on his face, walked a few feet from the podium, smiled embarrassingly, and then apologized for his gaffe. It was a classic “boy-did-I-stick-my-foot-in-my-mouth” moment, but Todd recovered nicely and finished his remarks to a robust round of applause.

Before Todd’s speech last Monday, he sat down with me to talk about our U.S. Senate race. He gave me his analysis of how the contest between incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is progressing.

You can watch both candidates speak on Saturday as KET brings you live coverage of the annual Fancy Farm picnic. We’ll have all the speeches plus expert commentary from our political analysts. Our live broadcast starts at 2:30 on KET, with live video streaming on our website at KET.org/live.

And be sure to follow me on this blog, and on Twitter (@BillKET) and Facebook (billgoodmanKET) throughout the weekend for updates from western Kentucky.

Chuck Todd on U.S. Senate Race

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Chuck Todd thoroughly enjoyed himself last week while visiting Kentucky. He arrived early from his base in Washington, where he produces and anchors The Daily Rundown on MSNBC, to attend the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s annual business summit in Louisville.

Todd is Chief White House Correspondent for NBC News. He became the network’s political director in March 2007. He also serves as on-air political analyst for NBC Nightly News and Meet the Press.

He is the epitome of a “political wonk.” I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who knows as much about the 2014 races in every state as Todd.

I interviewed him before he delivered his speech to an overflow crowd at the Marriott Hotel and asked him to talk about the contest between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Todd says that for Grimes to win, she will have to do extremely well in a few key areas of the state.

My interview with Chuck Todd airs Sunday at 1 p.m. on One to One. And be sure to watch KET’s Fancy Farm coverage with speeches by McConnell, Grimes, and other candidates. Our live broadcast begins Saturday at 2:30.


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