U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky kicked off their Saturday morning with a hot meal and fired-up rhetoric at the GOP Fancy Farm Picnic Breakfast at Graves County High School.
"Republicans are good sports," Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer told the packed cafeteria.
"We're going to be very well behaved at Fancy Farm today. We always are," he said, getting the first of several laughs he would get that morning as master of ceremonies.
"We care about our enemies on the other side of the aisle," Comer continued. "Until you've given a speech at Fancy Farm - and Sen. Paul and Sen. McConnell have given many, they can tell you better than I, it's very stressful. Sometimes people get a little emotional on the stage. So I'm going to demonstrate good sportsmanship today. I brought tissues for Jack Conway if he starts crying."
McConnell continued the Fancy Farm Picnic day tradition of making good-humored jabs and jokes at his party opponents' expense, but he made no mention of a debate with his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell did, however, bring up several points of contention he has with Grimes on issues including the "war on coal," border security, and foreign policy in relation to Israel.
"My opponent will tell you she's a new face, and she is," McConnell said. "But she's a new face for the status quo. For no change whatsoever. She's a new face for Barack Obama. She's a new face for Harry Reid. She's a new face for no change at all."
The speakers' jabs and jokes were mixed with serious calls for a change in the Senate and an even bigger change in the direction of American politics.
"I'm excited about the huge crowd we have here today, and the huge crowd we had last night in Marshall County," said Paul. "I hope what it shows is that there's gonna be a big-wave election, not only at the federal level, but the state level."
Paul stressed the importance to the Republican cause of reaching out to everyone, including minorities and disenchanted Democrats across the aisle, with races as close as that between McConnell and Grimes. According to the latest Bluegrass Poll, McConnell has a 2 percentage point lead over Grimes with 8 percent of those polled undecided and 25 percent saying they may change their mind before election day.
"We need to be the party of inclusiveness," he said. "When we do that, we're going to be the dominant party again. The only way we're ever going to win nationally is if we become a more diverse party. So I say we go out and get it."
Kentucky Senate president Robert Stivers got in one more jab before he, his fellow speakers and the crowd took to the road, Fancy Farm-bound.
"This is not the land of Oz, but we should have kind of a common saying down here," he said. "Do you remember when they said, 'lions and tigers and bears, oh my!' People in the state of Kentucky should be saying, 'Alison Lundergan Grimes, oh my!'"
Contact Genevieve Postlethwait, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.