FANCY FARM -- As the barbecue pits smoked at St. Jerome Parish Friday night, Kentucky's politicos tested out fresh zingers for Saturday's Fancy Farm picnic.
Speaking to a few hundred supporters at a bean dinner in Marshall County, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes took several jabs at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
When she flubbed a key line, the crowd applauded anyway.
"Fancy Farm and Mitch McConnell's campaign do have one thing in common," she said. "Fancy Farm has concession speeches - or concession stands - while on Nov. 4, Mitch McConnell will have a concession stand."
Grimes, who is Kentucky's Secretary of State, then corrected herself, predicting McConnell will give a concession speech on election night.
Grimes' overall message to the crowd was clear.
"Help me hold Mitch McConnell accountable for his 30 years of failed leadership," Grimes said.
Meanwhile, Republicans gathered at the Marshall County GOP dinner on the eve of Fancy Farm, which traditionally kicks off fall political campaigns in Kentucky, said surprisingly little about Kentucky's U.S. Senate race. McConnell did not attend.
Instead, there was much talk about Kentucky's 2015 race for governor and a possible run for president by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in 2016.
Two Republican who have their sights on occupying the governor's seat next year predicted Friday night who would win that race, while Paul declared that Hillary Clinton is not fit to lead this country.
State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told the crowd that the next governor of Kentucky will be a Republican. He later told reporters that the next governor would not be from Louisville.
That was a salvo at Louisville businessman Hal Heiner, who already has declared his candidacy with running mate K C Crosbie, a former member of the Urban County Council in Lexington.
Comer said he will announce his intentions on the race during his speech Saturday afternoon at Fancy farm. He said state Sen. Christian McDaniel of Northern Kentucky will be at the picnic but he would not say if McDaniel will be his running mate.
Heiner, who primarily used his speech at the GOP dinner to urge support for Republican candidates this year, said he agrees with Comer that the next governor will be Republican, but he said it will be someone like him who for decades has created jobs.
Earlier in the day, Paul told reporters after a Christian County Chamber of Commerce luncheon that he has too many friends already in the race for governor or thinking about getting in the race to make any endorsements.
"I'm not gonna get involved in the primary for the governorship," Paul said. "I know Jamie Comer and have a great deal of respect for him. I also know and like Hal Heiner too, and then there's rumors Cathy Bailey might run. And they're all friends, so I'm going to probably try and stay out of it."
When asked about what the crowd can expect to hear from him at Fancy Farm Saturday, the senator said, "it's top secret."
"I think it will be some good partisan red meat," Paul said. "Enough to hopefully entertain the crowd."
Paul and his staff indicated that the majority of his speech would be in support of McConnell, who is vying for a sixth term.
When a reporter noted that Fancy Farm organizers have asked the raucous crowd to show more restraint this year, Paul joked: "Nobody told me. Nobody sent me the memo."
"We'll take jabs at the other side, too," the senator said. "So we'll be partisan and political, but I think it would be nice if everybody understood that we're all adults and it's taken in good-spirited fun and not too serious."
When he spoke to the Marshall County crowd Friday night, Paul sharply criticized Democrat Hillary Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016.
Paul plans to spend three days next week giving speeches across Iowa, a key presidential primary state.
At Fancy Farm Friday night, campaign yard signs for both U.S. Senate candidates and just about every imaginable candidate for down-ballot office imaginable were already lining the rural roads to the picnic.
Buses for Grimes and C-SPAN were already parked behind the pavilion where a band played The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil."
A leisurely crowd walked the grounds, enjoying Sun Drop sodas and the calm before the storm.
Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.