Many pundits and journalists have declared this year’s U.S. Senate race in Kentucky to be the contest to watch this year. The contenders, Republican incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell, Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin, and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, frequently garner national media headlines.
The race was in the spotlight again yesterday as former President Bill Clinton attended a rally for Grimes in Louisville. I asked KET Associate Producer Ali Ord to cover the event, take a few pictures, and report on what she observed.
The luncheon was a fundraiser for Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s Secretary of State and candidate for the U.S. Senate. Local and national media as well as an over-flow crowd of well-wishers packed the room. Why? To hear former President Bill Clinton campaign for Grimes. No surprise there: Clinton is an old friend of Grimes’ father, long-time state Democratic operative Jerry Lundergan. Plus, the former president lives to campaign. “Getting Bill Clinton on the campaign trail is like force-feeding sugar to an ant,” joked former Clinton advisor Paul Begala. “You don’t have to ask him twice.”
With guest speakers like a past president as well as Congressman John Yarmuth and Gov. Steve Beshear working to unseat Sen. McConnell, the race will definitely be exciting. I think the real question is who will McConnell bring in to campaign for him?
As I made my way into the Galt House in Louisville to check-in before the event, I didn’t know what to except. The closest I have come to the Oval Office is co-producing coverage of the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate in Danville for WYMT-TV. I arrived at the Grimes fundraiser two hours early and it wasn’t long before the media began to file in, setting up camera positions, opening laptops, and preparing for the moment Clinton would enter the room. The audience seemed to enjoy the atmosphere and the opportunity to see the former president on a stage only a few feet away. If you care about politics, then your eyes are on this race – and the media is making it easy for us to follow it.
At this event I saw representatives from MSNBC, CNN, ABC, and other networks, plus The New York Times and The Washington Post. Sam Youngman, who is covering the race for the Lexington Herald-Leader, said Tuesday’s turnout by the media was, “A pretty strong showing by the national press this early in the year. There’s obviously a lot of curiosity about the race and the Grimes campaign, and, of course, Bill Clinton, arguably the best campaigner of modern times, always draws a crowd.”
This is an important race for Kentucky and the nation. The polls show it to be close. We’ll keep our eyes on the candidates and the media covering the contest in the months ahead.