We're in the political spotlight

Political spotlight will be on Ky. with October vice presidential debate

centre hosts vp event for second time

jbrammer@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2012 

Though relatively poor, Kentucky holds its own with most other states in offering a steady supply of political news for the nation.

John David Dyche, a political columnist and Louisville attorney, says he knows of no other state with two such nationally influential U.S. senators as Kentucky's Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.

And the nation's political spotlight will be on Kentucky on Oct. 11, when Centre College in Danville (population 16,273) hosts the only vice presidential debate. It will mark the second time in 12 years the liberal arts and sciences college of about 1,300 students will host such a debate.

Kentucky's two Republican U.S. senators often are in the national news. Both are regular guests on national news shows.

Dyche says McConnell's national influence is "institutional," while Paul's is "movement-based."

McConnell has been Senate minority leader, or the chamber's head of the Republican Party, since January 2007. He arguably is the most powerful elected Republican in America.

McConnell, who lives in Louisville, has been involved in this year's presidential campaign in trying to unseat Democratic President Barack Obama. He has played his role as leader of the opposition party to the hilt.

Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon, burst onto the national political scene when he was swept into political office in 2010 by a wave of support from the Tea Party.

He has benefited heavily from the strong following of his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, in espousing smaller government and other conservative issues.

Paul already is being mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 2016 as his national influence is growing.

Another Kentuckian in Congress also is frequently in national news. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which deals with federal spending bills.

But the real spotlight will shine on the commonwealth come October in the sequel to the 2000 debate, in which Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joe Lieberman discussed the issues with CNN's Bernard Shaw acting as moderator. At the time, Centre was the smallest college ever to host a national election debate.

Last fall, the Commission on Presidential Debates gave its nod to Centre to host the 2012 vice presidential debate. It cited its stellar performance in 2000, the presence of key people who hosted the 2000 debate and the college spending $100 million on facility upgrades, including $3 million on improvements at the Norton Center for the Arts, since 2000.

"The decision to allow Centre to host the debate for a second time is an extremely high compliment to Centre and its people involved," said Democratic political consultant and "proud Centre graduate" Danny Briscoe of Louisville.

"If Centre had not done an excellent job in 2000, the commission would not have come back. Many people did not think Centre would get it two times, so this is something definitely to celebrate. Not bad for a small town with no major airport."

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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