The race is on in Kentucky: Is Grimes ready to rumble?

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Monday that she will run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. Grimes is the Kentucky secretary of state and was probably one of the last hopes for Kentucky Democrats to unseat the five-term Republican.

Something seems off about her announcement in Frankfort:

Grimes delivered her remarks in front of a banner for her 2011 secretary of state campaign, spoke for just a few minutes and answered two brief questions before departing. The entire press conference, which began more than half an hour late, lasted less than five minutes.

Uh oh.

Maybe this is an overreaction, but when you’re taking on a guy who isn’t particularly loved in the state and you know he’s going to run a vicious campaign, maybe you want to make a more forceful presence when you announce you’re going to run.

Like:

— Stand in front of a banner that points to the future, not the past.

— Announce your candidacy outdoors in front of a crowd of supporters in your hometown. Grimes was born in Maysville in northeastern Kentucky near the Ohio border. She went to high school and made her career in Lexington, the heart of Bluegrass Country. But she made her announcement in the state capital, Frankfort. Not a wise move since Frankfort reinforces the idea that you’re a politician first and a Kentuckian second.

— Make sure there’s lots of cheering and enthusiasm for the television cameras so people in the state know you’re popular. Did you notice in the video above that you don’t see excited people and you don’t hear any cheering? That means there weren’t any excited people and there wasn’t much cheering, because the essence of television news is to present the best pictures and sounds (words are irrelevant). If the TV crew thought this was the best stuff they had to show, you’re in trouble.

— Don’t be late for your announcement. Unless your doing it in front of a crowd of enthusiastic supporters … then people see the television feed where you’re getting their congratulations and realize that’s what kept you from getting up on stage in time.

— Make sure your announcement lasts for more than “five minutes.” Five minutes is the time it takes for the bio film your staff put together to show you’re rise from modest beginnings to become one of the most powerful women in the state. Wait! What? There was no bio film?!

— Answer more than two questions at your press conference. Elections are like dates. First impressions count. If the first impression you leave is, “I can’t wait to get out of here,” folks are going to think you’re really not that serious about the job.

But maybe I’m not seeing the big picture here. I’m sure political experts in Kentucky have a better fix on this:

Even before Grimes made her decision, one prominent Democratic consultant grumbled to The Fix that it was a rollout unworthy of a major political campaign. “If it is a ‘yes,’ then this will go down as one of the worst rollouts ever,” said the Democratic consultant, who was granted anonymity to offer a candid assessment.

Oh, crap. Anything else go wrong?

* Grimes’s announcement was not promoted on her Twitter account, her Facebook page or really by anyone other than her top adviser, who told the Associated Press about the 3 p.m. announcement on Monday morning.

* As of Tuesday afternoon, Grimes still had no campaign Web site, though GrimesforSenate.com and AlisonforSenate.com appear to have been snapped up by someone. That means that anybody who was excited by her launch and wants to contribute money to her campaign has no outlet to do so.

* According to Ryan Alessi, a terrific reporter in Kentucky, people in the room at Grimes’s announcement described it as “unorthodox,” “unprecedented,” “fascinating” and even “surreal.” Grimes didn’t tell even her closest advisers about her decision until she made it.

Where do we begin?

— Look, it’s the 21st century. Social media is everything in campaigns, and it sounds like there’s no social media expertise here. You get buzz on Twitter and Facebook. You want people talking about your campaign even before you know you’re going to campaign. This is a pretty big oversight.

— Strike that. The fact you didn’t grab the URLs GrimesforSenate.com and AlisonforSenate.com months ago is huge. This is basic preparation. The easiest thing for people to guess for your campaign Web addresses are these two URLs. I really hope Grimes’s people have this and haven’t told anyone. Because if they don’t, I’d put my money on the likelihood that McConnell’s people have these addresses and will use them to screw over the Grimes campaign every chance they get. A parody page or, even worse, a pretend campaign site that looks serious but has all kinds of misleading posts. Look, if this is a political course, the syllabus name is Basic Ratfucking 101.

You don’t know what that means?

Rat-fuck: It was resurrected by the “USC Mafia” in school elections before they joined the Nixon administration and perfected the practice; it means to utilize dirty tactics (i.e. stealing ballots, changing the time of events with organizers, etc.) in political campaigns to win at any cost. This practice eventually led to the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation.

— Your closest advisers don’t know you’re planning to do this!!?? You know they have lives, right? And you know that a campaign of national importance is going to suck the life out of anyone who gets involved in it, right? You’ve got to let people know you’re going to do stuff like this so they can wrap their brains around the fact that this is going to be draining. More important, you have to let them know this is your plan so they can tell you things like: “Uh, Alison. I didn’t think we were going to rise to national prominence, so I didn’t tell you earlier that the Salvadoran nanny we have on our payroll sort of snuck in across the border.”

Can it get worse?

Jeebus Cripes! Mitch already has a parody ad out. In fact, Mitch has a major ad dump on YouTube right now. Twenty videos. Including this one:

Why the hell is Mitch obsessing over toilet paper?

There better be a response ad out tomorrow. Something like:

Mitch McConnell is living up to his reputation as a politician who will take the low road at any cost to preserve his fiefdom in Washington. I intend to make this campaign about the needs of our state and the ways we can build a brighter future for all Kentuckians. We know Mitch is in the pockets of the banks and corporate overlords. Five terms are enough for a politician who’s lost touch with the needs and desires of the people he’s supposed to serve. 30 years is enough for the mouthpiece of fat cats and the one percenters. It’s time for a change.

Grimes’s announcement should have set the tone for the election. Instead Mitch has decreed that the election is going to wallow in the gutter.

UPDATE: The folks with Team Mitch are a bunch of a tricky suckers. They’ve rigged the YouTube URL so it will come up with a different ad as they update the page. So the anti-Grimes ad I had up earlier switched to a patriotic Fourth of July ad on July 4th. And the day before, it was an ad that basically criticized Grimes for the things I thought she did wrong (now attached above). Gotta keep an eye on these guys. Here’s the ever changing link:

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3 thoughts on “The race is on in Kentucky: Is Grimes ready to rumble?

  1. Longtime Kentucky consultant Jonathan Hurst will serve as a spokesman. Hurst has a long history with Grimes, having worked on her 2011 race for Secretary of State and with her father at the state Democratic Party. He was also the state director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. The Clintons reportedly urged Grimes to get into the Senate race and Hurst said they will “absolutely” be involved in the campaign.

  2. Lundergan Grimes issued a statement on Wednesday, the day after her comments came to light, distancing herself from the group, saying outright that she doesn’t “condone racial or ethnic denigration” or “the content of the recording…or the context in which it was allegedly obtained.””I do not have a relationship with Progress Kentucky. And strained attempts to fabricate one based on a two-year-old photo taken during a statewide campaign in which thousands of photos were taken is merely a continuation of the desperate and personally destructive tactics invented by Senator McConnell and displayed in the recording by Senator McConnell himself,” she said.

  3. The easiest way to describe Alison Lundergan Grimes, the relatively unknown Kentucky secretary of state who announced this week she will take on Mitch McConnell in what could be next year’s marquee Senate campaign, is that she is the anti-Ashley Judd.

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