The Jack Conway who showed up at Saturday's Fancy Farm Picnic was not the one who stumbled through the event last year. In 2009, Conway -- then locked in a tough Democratic primary for Senate -- blurted out "I'm one tough son of a bitch" in response to the screaming hecklers that make a Fancy Farm speech what it is. Maybe not the kind if language that upsets you (or the average network television censor), but it was enough to apparently upset the Catholic crowd at Fancy Farm and shock, simply shock, the NRSC.
This year, the lead up to Conway's speech was mostly focused on the SOB remark, with "will he or won't he?" speculation about whether Conway would repeat the unscripted stuff serving as the only real controversy of the day. People needn't have bothered -- Conway delivered a firey speech that had plenty of tough words for Republican nominee Rand Paul, but none of them crossed the line into PG-13 territory.
But boy, did the speech stick it to Paul. Conway came out swinging, mocking Paul for his early gaffes on the campaign trail and attacking Paul as "a waffling pessimist who wants to be the prince of cable TV."
"There seems to be an emerging theme for Rand Paul and the Republicans this year," Conway said. "And that theme is, 'accidents happen.'"
So began a call-and-response routine with the crowd at the event that called for them to repeat the phrase, which came from Paul's infamous explanation for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Conway has already suggested that Paul is too extreme for Kentucky. Now he's focusing, his campaign says, on the times Paul has been forced to move toward the establishment Republican view on an issue since he handily won his primary running against the mainstream Kentucky GOP, led of course by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Though McConnell stood with Paul all day today and offered strong praise for him both at Fancy Farm and the Republican breakfast Saturday morning, Conway tried to reopen the wounds from the primary, when Paul defeated the man McConnell wanted to win the Republican nomination. Democrats hope that residual anger at the primary among more moderate Republicans could turn them into Conway voters.
"What did Mitch McConnell tell the Republican Party the day after the primary?" Conway quipped in his speech. "Accidents happen!" the crowd dutifully replied.
The TPM Poll Average shows Paul leading Conway 46.3-41.0 in Kentucky's Senate race.