Seizing on a series of politically eccentric statements from his opponent Rand Paul, Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway charged the Tea Party darling with having an "empathy gap" and promoting a world view that is "cold and callous."
"I think Rand Paul would be bad for the country," the Kentucky Attorney General said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "Rand Paul would be bad for Kentucky. I consider myself to be a fiscally responsible Democrat and I want a government we can afford. But Kentucky can't afford Rand Paul."
Conway was handed a gift of sorts from the political gods this week as the first stories to emerge from Kentucky's dual primaries on Tuesday all centered around Paul's libertarian interpretations of the role of the federal government. On Wednesday, the Republican candidate said he was skeptical about the necessity or reach of portions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On Friday morning, Paul criticized the Obama administration for being too tough on BP in the wake of that company's oil spill in the Gulf. "Accidents happen," he offered with respect to the Gulf tragedy and the deaths that took place in the West Virginia mines.
The dual comments have had the effect of placing Paul under a glaring and uncomfortable political spotlight as even national Republicans acknowledge that he needs more grooming. And Conway isn't about to throw his opponent a rope to let him out of the hole he has dug for himself.
"He's trying to say that the media is out to get him or the liberals are out to get him," Conway said. "The problem is, several weeks ago he gave that interview to the Louisville Courier-Journal, the editorial interview. He knew what he said, but then right after the election, he said it again on NPR, and then on MSNBC he had those 20 very painful minutes with Rachel Maddow. And it just kind of took on a life of its own."
"What did he say this morning?" Conway added. "'Sometimes accidents happen' in the context of miners? We have families right now in Western Kentucky grieving over their relatives that were lost in a mine collapse. We have families in West Virginia still grieving in that terrible mine tragedy over there. And he says 'sometimes accidents happen?' That's not only an empathy gap, that's cold and callous. And I think that's a real problem for his campaign."
Conway said that he felt the past week has provided a clear illustration of the contrast between the two Senate candidates. Going forward, he advertised a campaign strategy that will depict Paul as more concerned with maintaining philosophical purity than the legitimate and serious interests of his state,
"We are going to say: 'Look, Rand Paul seems to want to be the prince of some national ideology. I want to be a senator for Kentucky, for the Kentuckians who are hurting right now,'" Conway explained.
As it stands now, Conway still faces an uphill battle, with polls showing Paul with a sizeable margin of error with which to work. The AG said he welcomed the challenge, though he quibbled both with the poll (done by the conservative-leaning Rasmussen) and the notion that Kentucky remains too gripped by conservative politics to move away from Paul.
"I will gladly take the underdog label if you want to give me the underdog label," he said. "I'm going to go fight for Kentucky families against Rand Paul. I think I showed in the primaries, I'm a pretty good closer."
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