By RONNIE ELLIS
FANCY FARM —
The annual political roasting here in this far western Kentucky village pretty much went according to script. Republicans talked about Barack Obama and several Democrats who apparently didn’t want to didn’t show up.
But State House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, did show up and he defended Obama and took it to presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, and just about every other Republican he could think of. Earlier Saturday, at the Graves County Democratic Breakfast, Stumbo said he will vote for Obama.
Later at the Fancy Farm picnic, he said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear couldn’t be at Fancy Farm because he was in Europe “trying to bring some jobs back that Mitt Romney sent overseas.”
Stumbo said if 1st District Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield and McConnell “knew anything about what Kentuckians need, they’d be back in Washington voting for the president’s jobs bills, which they’ve refused to do. It’s about the economy, boys!”
McConnell, of course, gave as good as he got. Noting the absence of all the state Democratic constitutional officers, except for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell conducted a “roll call:” calling out each of the Democrats’ names. When there was no answer beyond the cat-calls of hecklers in the audience, McConnell said: “That tells you why western Kentucky Democrats voted for uncommitted.”
That was a reference to the May Democratic primary in which “uncommitted” received more than 40 percent of the vote. McConnell said he’d never met “Mr. Uncommitted.”
“Since he’s not here, let’s talk about his opponent – President Obama,” McConnell said. He said Obama said in his first year as president he inherited a mess; in the second, he passed “Obamacare;” and in the third year he “started blaming Bush again and now his campaign slogan is: ‘It’s not our fault.’ ”
This year “is the biggest election of our lifetime,” McConnell said. “We must elect Mitt Romney.”
But Stumbo, who spoke after McConnell had slipped out the back of the speaking stand, was eager to blame Bush.
“If there was ever a worse American president in this United States history, you know I’d like to know who it is,” Stumbo said of Bush. “You know and I’m glad Mitch McConnell left because he wouldn’t want to defend the actions of he and his buddy, George Bush.”
He didn’t spare Romney, saying he felt “comfortable and secure visiting his money over there” in Europe.
Stumbo said he doesn’t agree with some of Obama’s policies, but McConnell “was right there with George Bush when they made the decisions that sank not only the American colony but darn near the entire world.
“I tell you what, when you let an elephant mess in the streets for eight years, it takes a long time to clean it up,” Stumbo added. He said half a million Kentucky house owners lost their houses because of Republican policies but said they will not take over the Kentucky House of Representatives in this fall’s elections.
State House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, followed and said Democrats have controlled the House for too long. He said Democrats allowed the state pension system to become so imbalanced it would bankrupt the state; wanted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which he called Obamacare; and had piled up state debt.
“We cannot afford that,” Hoover said. “Folks, it is time to build a new House.”
Republicans have made gains in the Democratic-controlled state House their primary goal in this year’s state elections. They would need a net gain of 10 seats to achieve a majority, a long shot. But they think during a year when an unpopular president is on the ballot in Kentucky, they have their best chance.
Hoover didn’t pass up the chance also to note the absence of Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, Attorney General Jack Conway, and Treasurer Todd Hollenbach.
“I look over here today and see so few Democratic candidates,” Hoover said. “There are not enough Democrats here to have a good Rook Tournament.”
Grimes was the only Democratic constitutional officer to speak, and she kept away from partisan rhetoric, concentrating on her duties as the state’s chief election officer and pledging to help all voters cast their ballots this fall.
About as close to partisan politics as Grimes got was when she declared, “I’m proud to be a Democrat and I carry my Democratic values with me every day.”
With so few Democrats on hand to speak and the foregone conclusion Romney will carry Kentucky over Obama, crowds were smaller this year, perhaps down as much as 20 to 30 percent. But that still meant more than 10,000 converged on this otherwise sleepy little hamlet for the 132nd annual fundraiser for St. Jerome’s Parish.
As in most years, the place cooked in the August heat and humidity. But volunteers also cooked thousands of pounds of pork and mutton over coals in the barbecue pits and crowds still lined up for the meal of barbecue, fried chicken, home-grown and home-cooked vegetables and desserts in the air-conditioned Knights of Columbus Hall.
The only thing that may have been a bit off other than the crowd was what the picnic is most famous for – it’s political rhetoric.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com /cnhifrankfort