In a state that voted overwhelmingly for Republican John McCain last November, the reaction to President Barack Obama's surprising win of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation" was mildly positive at best.
Commenters on message boards, both at this newspaper and elsewhere, launched barbed criticisms of the president's win.
Carey Cavanaugh, director of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky, was in Washington when the announcement was made. He considers the prize a signal of support to the United States for having elected Obama "to work on human rights, to work on peace."
"In Lexington and Louisville this will change no one's daily life, but it highlights the view in the rest of the world (about) how important the United States is," Cavanaugh said. "That doesn't hurt Kentucky, if the world is looking up once more to the United States."
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Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, predicted that "the most likely effect is going to be on people who voted for him but are now uncertain about it. He may get some of those people back. But this is still stuff that is atmospheric, on the margins. It's hard to measure."
Will the Nobel win change Kentucky minds on issues such as Obama's call for dramatically changing the structure, cost and coverage of he nation's health insurance? That's unlikely, according to the chairman of the state's Republican party.
"I believe Kentuckians and Americans will view this president based on his agenda based on issues," said Steve Robertson. "I congratulate him on winning the Nobel prize. But at the end of the day, Kentuckians and Americans don't look at awards, they look at actions."
Danny Briscoe, a Democratic political consultant and former Kentucky insurance commissioner, describes himself as "a strong supporter" of the president, who he describes as "globally, the closest thing to a rock star we've had as a president in a long time." But Briscoe doesn't think the Nobel win helps the president much in Kentucky.
"I think it helps him in this country somewhat, and I think it helps in the world somewhat, but in Kentucky, in the margins, unfortunately. ... He lost 112 counties, and there's a lot of animosity directed toward him in this state."
Charlie Moore, chairman of Kentucky's Democratic party, said that while the prize is being awarded to President Obama, "I really believe that this prize has been awarded to America, if you will, in the name of President Obama. I think the world sees that under the leadership of our president, our country is returning to those traditional values that were established over two centuries for which America has been held in such great esteem."
Moore says it's not surprising that Obama's policies sometimes struggle in Kentucky, even among those who identify themselves as Democrats. "Kentucky on most issues winds up in the middle of the political spectrum. On many issues, it winds up a little right — most of our Kentucky Democratic leaders are moderate to conservative in their philosophy."
Briscoe said he was irked by the criticism of the president winning one of the world's most prestigious awards.
"Why do you rip somebody who wins the Nobel Peace Prize?" he asked.