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Conway misstep keeps playing

FRANKFORT — Political experts say U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway will need the "tough hide" he bragged about at the Fancy Farm picnic to endure growing mockery of his declaration that he's "one tough son of a bitch."

On Wednesday, Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, a satire on news, had in its cross hairs Attorney General Conway's use of vulgarities at last Saturday's political picnic in Western Kentucky. At least three videos posted on YouTube this week also use snippets of Conway's speech in a ridiculing manner.

It's not surprising that Conway's political misstep, for which he has apologized, has quickly taken on a life of its own, said Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, a non-partisan analysis of American politics.

"Whether it's pure viral expansion or it's an orchestrated plan on the part of opponents, we live in a day and age when technology magnifies any mistake of a politician," Rothenberg said. "This is what is happening now to Conway because of his small misstep."

Rothenberg cited the "public attention and near constant ridicule" endured by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Edwards. Sanford and Edwards had adulterous affairs, while Palin made several controversial statements during her run for vice president last year.

"More and more of this stuff gets picked up on TV and the Internet," he said.

A spokesman for the campaign of Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, Conway's main opponent in next year's Democratic primary election for U.S. Senate, said Thursday that it had "absolutely nothing to do" with the YouTube videos.

"We have no idea where they came from, but we did have a good chuckle over them," said Kim Geveden, Mongiardo's campaign consultant.

One of the videos played Conway's vulgarity several times as the tune of Macho Man, a song by the late 1970s disco group The Village People, blared in the background.

Another noted the vulgarity and Conway's graduation from Duke University, a nemesis to University of Kentucky basketball fans. A third repeatedly played Conway's words, followed by video of startled-looking schoolchildren.

"They are classless, gutter, juvenile politics," said Mark Riddle, Conway's campaign consultant. "That is why so many leaders from across the state support Jack and why he has raised more money than any other candidate."

Riddle blamed Mongiardo for the videos, noting that a Democratic-leaning blog, pageonekentucky.com, alleged that people close to Mongiardo's campaign produced the video featuring the Village People.

Riddle said Conway saw The Colbert Report on Wednesday while tending to his newborn baby daughter. "He thought it was funny," Riddle said.

Comedian Stephen Colbert reported that "at the picnic, Democratic candidate Jack Conway said some awful things about Democratic candidate Jack Conway."

Colbert then played a clip and asked, "How dare he use that kind of filthy language during what I assume was his lunch break from AutoZone?"

Colbert proceeded to mangle Mongiardo's name and make light of Mongiardo's objections to the vulgarity.

Rothenberg said Conway should be glad his misstep happened early in the campaign instead of several days before the election.

"He has plenty of time to get this behind him," said the political expert. "What he doesn't want is for this to define him as a candidate."

To move on, Conway must find a way to change the subject and remind people of what he stands for, Rothenberg said.

Democratic political consultant Danny Briscoe of Louisville, who is not involved with any candidate in Kentucky for the U.S. Senate, said no candidate ever wants to be the butt of jokes.

"But Jack Conway can and will overcome this as long as this is not systemic of his campaign," he said. "If mistakes like this keep occurring it will be very troublesome for him."

Briscoe said he had no idea last Saturday that the issue "would become this big."

"It should have been nipped in the bud at least by Sunday," Briscoe said. "Here it is days later, and it's still being talked about."

Riddle said Conway "wants to move on."

"We know the Mongiardo campaign is feeding this, but that's an insult to the people of Kentucky," Riddle said. "Maybe the news media and Mongiardo ought to apologize for rewriting and rewriting it."

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