One of the nation’s most closely watched political horse races played out in Owensboro Tuesday. Kentucky’s U.S. Senate nominees met at the Red, White, and Blue Picnic on the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse.
"Our first speaker, please give a warm Daviess County round of applause for challenger and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes," announced emcee Kirk Kirkpatrick.
Before a crowd of several hundred, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes utilized a classic campaign strategy: it’s time for change.
"This election comes at a critical time because Mitch McConnell's Washington is not working for Kentucky," suggested Grimes.
Wearing a red dress with cowboy boots, Grimes spoke forcefully as she painted McConnell as the embodiment of all that is wrong in Washington.
"Kentuckians are ready for someone who goes beyond the word no," exclaimed Grimes.
Reminding the crowd that she could become Kentucky’s first female senator, Grimes ripped the five-term incumbent on issues relating to women.
"When it comes to increasing the minimum wage and giving hard-working Kentuckians a fighting chance, Mitch McConnell says no," stated Grimes. "Kentucky is ready for a senator who believes this isn't just a woman's issue, this is not but a families issue and 76 cents on every dollar is not acceptable."
While a major theme of his 2008 campaign, Grimes told the audience that McConnell’s days of bringing home the bacon were gone.
"He'll try to harken back to decades ago when he brought money to this state, but what he won't tell you, and you and I know, the era of earmarks is over," said Grimes.
"Ladies and gentlemen, our next speaker. Please give a warm Daviess County welcome to incumbent U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell," emcee Kirk Kirkpatrick announced.
Now, it was McConnell’s turn. The 72-year-old incumbent walked to the podium dressed in denim.
"It's great to be here and I think we've finally found something my opponent and I can agree on," quipped McConnell. "This race is about the next six years and who can be the most effective for American and Kentucky."
McConnell went straight to his campaign strategy of linking Alison Lundergan Grimes to President Obama.
"In 2008 the president had a great big election with a big margin in the House and Senate. He could do anything he wanted to and he did: Obamacare, a trillion-dollar stimulus, Dodd-Frank, which was Obamacare for banks, an army of regulators crawling all over America with the view 'If you're making a profit, you must be up to no good.' This administration has been a job killer," McConnell suggested. "There is nobody Barack Obama wants to beat worse than Mitch McConnell and there's nothing I'd like better than for him to have a bad night November 4th."
McConnell reminded spectators that his re-election would likely put him in line to run the U.S. Senate.
"We need to turn this country around," exclaimed McConnell. "If you're worried about the future of America and Kentucky we need to go in a new direction, and the way to do that is to make me the leader of a new majority, to set a new agenda for America."
As for those earmarks he was chastised about by his Democratic opponent, McConnell, within eyesight of the Ohio River, closed his speech with no regrets.
"Fifty million dollars for the riverfront has done great things for Owensboro," claimed McConnell. "I'm proud I did it for you. It's changed this community, and we'll do it again."
Most in the Owensboro audience didn’t mind the crowds and sweltering heat. After all, it was a rare opportunity to see Kentucky’s U.S. Senate rivals together. It was their last scheduled joint appearance before the two face off for a KET debate on October 13.