When Attorney General Jack Conway addressed a conference of Kentucky county judge executives and magistrates this week, he tested what is sure to become a well-worn line as his campaign gets legs and starts walking.
"Yeah, I voted for the president," Conway said. "And then I sued him."
As the battle between Republicans gets underway, Conway, who is not facing a serious challenge to becoming the Democratic gubernatorial campaign, is building a campaign, an organization and a defense to the liabilities that come with being a Democrat running for office in increasingly red Kentucky.
In his remarks on Thursday, Conway spoke at length about his seven-year record as attorney general, blending his work in office with his family background as a counter-narrative to the notion that a candidate from Louisville can't connect with voters in other parts of the state.
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"I want folks to know that I understand the fabric of our rural communities," Conway said. "I understand what's going on in these counties. Yes, I make my home in Louisville, but my dad comes from Union County."
In an interview with the Herald-Leader, Conway said he has learned lessons from not only his failed U.S. Senate run in 2010, but also from last year's race when Alison Lundergan Grimes lost badly to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As Grimes struggled in the fall, Democrats openly fretted that she had not taken advantage of the time early in the year when McConnell was distracted by a primary challenge.
While she focused entirely on raising money, Republicans divided their focus between beating Bevin and defining Grimes early on as a rubber-stamp for national Democrats.
"I think I'm more of a defined entity than Alison was," Conway said. "I've been attorney general for seven years. I've got a little bit more of a public record."
As national Democrats and President Barack Obama continue to be a millstone hanging around the necks of Kentucky Democrats, Conway emphasized that he has "a record of being a Kentucky-first Democrat," but he acknowledged that he will need to use the time while Republicans are battling each other "to reinforce that."
"And I'm going to take this opportunity over the next couple months to reinforce that to make certain that the people of Kentucky know that I'm going to put Kentucky first, people first in everything that I do," he said. "And not having a primary gives me a unique opportunity to do that, and I'll certainly take advantage of it. I think that the Republicans will have a harder time defining me because I'm more of a known quantity and I'm going to have the opportunity to remind the voters of Kentucky of my record."
Conway said it was too early to say whether or not he will spend money on television advertising during the primary when Republicans will be running ads against each other.
From a press perspective, Conway has continued to keep his daily emphasis on his current job, sending out daily press releases about his efforts to combat teenage drug abuse and protect Kentuckians from Internet scams.
But as a candidate, he has kept a relatively low profile, skipping candidate forums that have ended up being cattle calls for the Republican field with liberal Democratic candidate Geoff Young standing in to represent Democrats.
Conway said that his reasons to miss forums like last week's by the Kentucky Association of Realtors is in part because of "awkward" scheduling, and in part because what "some groups are trying to do is to lure us into a one versus four debate."
Noting that he debated U.S. Sen. Rand Paul several times during their 2010 race, Conway was emphatic that he won't shy away from debating his Republican opponent after a nominee is selected.
"What I'm not going to do is show up and get myself in a one versus four debate where I'm getting ganged up on by four different candidates for governor and I get one-fifth of the time," Conway said. "That doesn't behoove our campaign. I don't think it behooves the groups that are sponsoring it. I don't think it behooves the people of Kentucky."
Saying that he will be "ready to debate in May," Conway said that for now he's "got a lot to do, a lot of people to see... and I'm not going to go debate four separate tickets when I don't know who my opponent's going to be."
"That's common sense," he said. "That's discipline."
As part of that discipline, Conway is trying to get in front of criticisms that a Democrat from Louisville can't win the governor's mansion, taking particular issue with comments from Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer who has said repeatedly that the next governor of Kentucky won't come from the state's biggest city.
"Look, we're all one state," Conway said. "The governor ought to pull us all together, urban, rural, east, west. And that's the type of campaign I'm going to run and so if someone challenges me that I'm from the wrong place, I'm going to say it's about where we're all going together. I'm going to take that on head on. I'm not going to shy away from that one bit."
With Grimes deciding to run for re-election as Secretary of State instead of challenging Conway for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, state Democrats, at least at the top, appear to be unified.
That includes help from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), which has been working with Conway and his aides for months.
Democrats are united, Conway said, "from not only our campaign here but the national focus that's going to be on this campaign."
When asked if working with a national Democratic organization opens him up to the same kinds of attacks that were key to Grimes' ultimate doom, Conway said: "Is there a danger? I don't know. But I'm not going to let that danger visit my doorstep."
Noting his A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, his support of coal and his lawsuit against the Obama administration, Conway said he is not of the same mold as national Democrats, and efforts to portray him as such would be in vain.
"That's the strategy they tried to use in the Senate race, but I'm not going to let them do it to me," he said.
In the meantime, Conway said he is focused on building an on-the-ground field organization in all 120 counties and raising money.
"I know that this race is going to be a tense race," he said. "It's going to garner a lot of national focus, and I'm ready to run a top-flight campaign."