Analysis

Paul makes headlines, Conway runs a quieter race

national attention makes him more visible than conway

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJuly 26, 2010 

FRANKFORT — While Republican Rand Paul has dominated news coverage of Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, has been far less visible.

National media fascination with Tea Party favorite Paul is responsible for much of the difference, but Conway also seems to have deliberately pursued a more low-key approach than Paul in the months since the May primary.

Both candidates have been heavily involved in raising much-needed funds for costly TV ads in the fall, when most voters pay attention to the race.

But Conway, the state's attorney general, has spent more of his campaign time working behind the scenes, building a network of support.

Paul, on the other hand, has been quite visible on the campaign trail and prominent in the media.

"So far in the general election race, Paul is getting a lot more attention than Conway, getting out more than Conway," said Democratic political consultant Danny Briscoe, who is not involved in this year's race.

The national media, as well as those in Kentucky, have flocked to Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon and son of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

Making his first bid for public office, Rand Paul has garnered national attention because of his Tea Party ties and his father's unsuccessful bid for president in 2008.

With Paul on the campaign trail last week were reporters from The New York Times and Bloomberg News. Reporters from GQ and Mother Jones Magazine are working on stories about Paul. In what would be a first, C-Span might make cover the Fancy Farm political picnic Aug. 7 in Graves County featuring Paul and Conway.

A content analysis of news stories in Lexis-Nexis about the race shows the media have been focusing on Paul.

In the last three months — April 22 through July 21 — major Kentucky newspapers, including the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, mentioned Paul 305 times in the first paragraphs of stories compared with 150 times for Conway.

In the news stories, Paul's name popped up 465 times to 386 for Conway's.

Among newspapers outside of Kentucky listed in the top 50 in circulation in Editor & Publisher Year Book, Paul's name was in the first paragraphs of stories 196 times. Conway's name appeared in opening paragraphs 12 times.

After making controversial comments about the role of the Civil Rights Act on private businesses and President Barack Obama's handling of the gulf oil spill, Paul has toned down his remarks and taken more advantage of free publicity than Conway.

Since the May primary, Paul has kept a regular routine on national news shows, appearing on Fox News, Fox Business and the Rush Limbaugh show.

But the publicity has not always been favorable.

Paul complained Tuesday night at a rally in Frankfort that the media have scrutinized him and his views while letting Conway get away without taking stands on issues.

"In some ways, that's good for me. Everybody in Kentucky knows my name now, but at the same time, I'm not sure it's fair to want to dredge up," he said.

"I expect the next thing to come out is my high school themes and my college themes."

Conway's campaign press secretary, Allison Haley, said in a statement that Conway's team is not surprised by the heavy media attention Paul's campaign is getting.

"Any major candidate that flip-flops, backpedals and spouts inaccuracies as much as Rand Paul has since May 19 is going to get a lot of media coverage," Haley said.

She added, "While Rand's been out there pushing his risky ideas, Jack has been campaigning in every part of the state since the primary election, carrying his consistent message of creating jobs, reducing the deficit and restoring accountability to Wall Street and Washington."

According to Conway's campaign Web site, he spoke to two labor groups in Louisville during the last two weeks.

But a Louisville radio talk-show host said he failed to appear on her show.

Mandy Connell, who has a morning show on WHAS-840 AM, was irked Wednesday that Conway was a no-show.

She said she had expected Conway on the show Tuesday or Wednesday. Her producer told her they had not heard anything from the campaign about his absence.

On her Friday show, Connell said, "Jack Conway has been found," and reported that he would be on this week, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, for 15 minutes.

Paul has been putting in the miles to get out his message. They include speaking to large crowds of several hundred earlier this month at a Tea Party rally at the Capitol and a United Methodist church social Wednesday in Fulton County.

He was in New York City earlier this month, speaking at a rally at Webster Hall.

"I like to meet the people," Paul said.

Briscoe, the Democratic consultant, said Paul and Conway are acting as they did early in their primary campaigns.

In the early stages of the primary contest, Paul did a lot more traveling and talking to the media than his rival, Secretary of State Trey Grayson. And Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo was out more than Conway in the Democratic primary, Briscoe said.

Briscoe said he would expect Conway "to try to stir up more excitement about his race."

"He can't do that staying in Louisville and Frankfort. He has to beat the bushes. Kentuckians expect politicians to be in their communities several times, and you can't reach them all in the few weeks between Labor Day and Election Day when people start paying attention to the race," he said.

Briscoe added that he does not think Conway enjoys the part of politics that demands campaigning.

"He's a very bright guy, but he's not a backslapper, press-the-flesh type politician," he said.

Neither campaign provides on its Web site advance, complete information about their candidates' schedules so the public can keep up with them.

Last week, Paul said he wanted to hold six debates with Conway, including one on national television via Fox News.

The Conway camp said it would consider the request.

Early polls have given Paul a slight lead in the Nov. 2 contest to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, a Republican.

Herald-Leader online content manager Lu-Ann Farrar contributed information for this article.

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