POLITICS AUGUST 9, 2013
Mitch McConnell may be having troubles on the campaign manager front—you'd rather have someone in that role who isn't telling people he is "holding [his] nose" working for you. But say this for McConnell—he's got an ace ad-maker at his side. Consider the one-minute spot the campaign just put out, with footage from Fancy Farm, the marvelous church fundraiser picnic mixed with political speechathon in far western Kentucky.
I was at Fancy Farm and it was ... nothing like what is depicted here. There was plenty energy at the event, as there was bound to be with such a high-profile race looming in the state. But the energy resided disproportionately on the side of the challengers, Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell gave a feisty enough speech, complete with an opening shot at Grimes' father, but his support had a distinctly manufactured quality, consisting primarily of young college-types bused in from elsewhere in matching red T-shirts and then bused back out after McConnell was done speaking, as if the campaign did not even want the youngsters exposed to the charms of Bevin, who spoke last and, almost everyone agrees, pretty much stole the show.
But this ad manages to make McConnell's turn at Fancy Farm out to be as electrifying as Hendrix at Woodstock—that is, with a denim shirt and pleated slacks in place of tasseled shirt and red bandana. McConnell's ad man is Lucas Baiano, the very young and very highly touted veteran of Rick Perry and Tim Pawlenty's failed 2012 presidential primary campaigns, dubbed the "auteur admaker" by GQ magazine. Baiano surely doesn't come cheap, but judging by this effort, he is worth every penny.
Alec MacGillis is a New Republic senior editor. Follow him @AlecMacGillis.