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."
Rand Paul Cancels On 'Meet The Press,' Only 3rd Guest To Do So In 62 Years
Following a week of unsparingly critical press coverage, Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul is now seeking to limit his national exposure.
A spokesperson for the Tea Party-endorsed candidate informed NBC News late Friday afternoon that an exhausted Paul was canceling his interview on Sunday's "Meet the Press," Betsy Fischer, the executive producer for the program, told the Huffington Post.
If Paul were to follow through on his decision to not appear on "Meet the Press" it would be, as Fischer describes it, "a big deal." There have been only two other guests in the program's 62-year history to have canceled last minute: Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar bin Khaled al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Both Fischer and host David Gregory have since sent direct appeals to Paul's campaign manager to talk to the candidate over the phone with the goal of getting him to reverse his decision. But it appears the Paul camp isn't budging.
"Rand did Good Morning America today, set the record straight, and now we are done talking about it," Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton told the Washington Post. "No more national interviews on the topic."
"Meet the Press" had scored a major victory in booking Paul for its program. The Republican Senate candidate emerged as the face of the Tea Party movement following his primary victory Tuesday night. Since then, he's been surrounded by intrigue and controversy after having expressed skepticism about the reach of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Much of critical coverage came after Paul appeared on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show" -- an interview he said subsequently was "mistake." Asked whether she believed Maddow's sit-down played a role in Paul canceling on "Meet the Press," Fischer said she did not.
"Obviously he has had a very tough week I think he has just had a long week and seems to not want to talk any more or keep his commitment," she said.
Exhaustion? wtf is he, Mariah Carey?