Republicans had undeniable success last year in tying Kentucky's Democratic U.S. Senate candidate to an unpopular Democratic president.
With President Barack Obama coming to Kentucky on Thursday, it seems clear from statements put out by national Republican groups Wednesday that the same strategy will be used again in this year's race for governor.
Attorney General Jack Conway, the presumed Democratic nominee for governor, will not be present when Air Force One lands in Louisville Thursday, or when Obama speaks about the economy at Indatus, a technology company in Louisville.
Daniel Kemp, Conway's spokesman, said Conway will be in Eastern Kentucky on Thursday "in meetings to discuss efforts to continue fighting the scourge of prescription drug abuse and heroin and how to curb the cycle of addiction."
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Conway has been focused on the drug issue throughout his tenure as attorney general, often telling crowds that he has spoken to more than 47,000 Kentucky students about the dangers of drug addiction, but his focus on the matter this week seems too convenient, according to Republicans looking to rough him up a bit.
After all, they said, it wasn't that long ago that Conway was more vocal in his support of Obama.
The Republican Governors Association sent a news release Wednesday saying that Conway was a delegate to the Democratic national conventions for Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Jon Thompson, the RGA's spokesman, included a tweet from Conway from September 2012, the last time Obama was in the state.
"It was an honor to welcome Pres. Obama to KY," Conway tweeted. "Enjoyed talking baseball, politics and policy. Shared a couple of laughs."
Thompson said in his email, "Conway used to welcome President Obama with open arms to Kentucky."
"But now that he's running for governor, Conway can't run fast enough from Obama and his failed policies," Thompson wrote. "Conway can keep running, but Kentucky voters won't let him hide from his liberal record."
Raffi Williams, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement Wednesday that Conway "is obviously just another Kentucky Democrat candidate who doesn't have the courage to tell Kentuckians the truth about his support for Barack Obama and his liberal agenda."
Williams' comment, a reference to 2014 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes' refusal to say whether she voted for Obama, makes clear that the early strategy for running against Conway is the same as that used last year by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
With four Republican candidates battling among themselves ahead of the May 19 primary, national Republicans appear to be taking the lead in trying to tie Conway to Obama, whose approval numbers have always been anemic in Kentucky.
Although he has kept a fairly low profile as a candidate, Conway has taken steps to inoculate himself from the strategy that helped defeat Grimes.
Neither Kemp nor the Kentucky Democratic Party would respond to the criticism coming from national Republicans.
Repeatedly touting his A-plus rating with the National Rifle Association and his lawsuit against the Obama administration over environmental regulations, Conway has tried to present himself as an independent "Kentucky first" Democrat who can win in rural areas where large percentages of Democrats do not like Obama.
In February, the Herald-Leader asked Conway about the 2014 Republican strategy and whether he was worried about falling into the same trap.
"Is there a danger? I don't know," Conway said. "But I'm not going to let that danger visit my doorstep."
Conway said Kentuckians know him better than they did Grimes, and a look at his record should tell voters that he is not a Democrat who marches in lockstep with the president.
"That's the strategy they tried to use in the Senate race, but I'm not going to let them do it to me," Conway said.
Other prominent Democratic candidates also will miss Obama's visit Thursday.
State Auditor Adam Edelen said he will attend a fundraiser in Eastern Kentucky. Attorney general candidate Andy Beshear will be meeting with law enforcement to talk about heroin abuse.