FRANKFORT — This and that, the welcome back Gov. Steve Beshear edition:
For much of this year's General Assembly session, legislators in both parties and both houses and most observers looked upon Kentucky's governor as Mr. Irrelevant.
Once his slots-enhanced budget proposal suffered the indignity of being tossed out the window, by his fellow Democrats in the House no less, a snarky tone often accompanied the words "governor" and "Beshear" in the halls of the Capitol and Capitol Annex.
By the closing days of the main portion of the session, I was chatting up longtime denizens of those hallways, gathering ideas for a column on the subject: "How does Steve Beshear make himself relevant again once the legislative fun and games end?"
Short of having him launch some sexy new initiative, I wasn't hearing many good answers. And launching sexy new initiatives absent sexy amounts of revenue can be difficult.
So, I was left with this general consensus: Send him out on the road. As one observer noted, there are no votes in Frankfort.
Actually, there are votes in Frankfort. But the figurative translation of that adage of Kentucky politics is that there are no votes to be had sitting around the Capitol shuffling paperwork.
So, this line of reasoning went, send Beshear out into communities around the state because he connects well with people on such trips, particularly in small settings. And make sure first lady Jane Beshear goes with him. She connects even better on the road than the governor does.
That was it. The best bit of advice those hallway denizens could come up with for Beshear was: Hit the road, Governor.
It didn't sound like much of a plan to me.
Turns out, though, road trips will not be necessary for Beshear to become relevant again. Oh, sure, he'll still take them — in bunches. After all, there is that little matter of re-election in 2011.
But legislative leaders made him relevant when they failed to produce a budget of any kind, much less one that could be veto-proof. Then, they made him very relevant when they begged him to help them extricate themselves from those manhood measurement contests.
And if they accept the spending compromises he suggested Wednesday, as they seem willing to do at the moment, he will walk away from this extended 2010 budget process a winner. His will be the name associated with leadership.
Names such as Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo? Well, not so much.
Speculation has had Stumbo considering a primary challenge to Beshear. Right now, that looks unlikely.
Not necessarily because of Beshear's sudden conversion from Mr. Irrelevant to Mr. Fixit, aided in part by Stumbo's (and Williams') inability to close a deal.
Not even because the slate of Beshear and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson has a substantial head start in fund-raising. In April, it reported raising nearly $2 million, with $1.5 million on hand.
Under the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on corporate spending in political campaigns, friends in the right places could help Stumbo play catch-up on the money front rather quickly. And Stumbo has some friends in those right places.
But there is the other deficit Stumbo faces, the one reflected in the recent Kentucky Poll commissioned by the Herald-Leader, WKYT-TV and WAVE-TV. In a head-to-head matchup between the governor and the House speaker, Democratic respondents chose Beshear by a 55 percent to 28 percent margin.
Those numbers would have to change substantially before a primary challenge by Stumbo could be justified.
Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer fared more favorably when matched against Beshear in the poll, getting the support of 37 percent of the respondents compared to the incumbent's 44 percent. And some Republicans dream of having the former University of Kentucky basketball "Unforgettable" heading their ticket.
But here's the thing: There are no zone defenses in a gubernatorial campaign. Sure, there are campaign organizations with spin doctors, image molders, media gurus and all the other bells and whistles.
Ultimately, though, a governor's race comes down to one-on-one, man-to-man. And an incumbent governor not slimed by scandal can bring a lot of game to such a contest.
Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky
Since Lena and us ain't together
Keeps rainin' all the time