Here in Kentucky, we are experiencing the warm-up for a 2010 election that I think will prove very interesting.
It stands to serve as a harbinger of what wilderness-exiled Republicans are going to do to stop encompassing the mountain and pass over into Canaan.
We have a Republican incumbent senator, one Jim Bunning, formerly a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, currently the GOP counterpart to the human gaffe machine, Joe Biden.
Some of his faux pas include referring to his 2004 Democratic opponent, dark-complected Daniel Mongiardo, as looking "like one of Saddaam Hussein's sons." He also characterized the would-be Uday or Qusay as "limp-wristed."
More recently, he told an audience that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely be dead in nine months, in addition to using profanity in a press conference call.
In December of last year, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Bunning's non-profit foundation, appropriately titled the Jim Bunning Foundation, had given less than 25% of its proceeds to charity.
He is not known for putting in time on any particular issue in the Senate unless it is related to baseball.
He is also ranked as the second-most conservative member of the Senate, taking a back seat only to Jim DeMint.
To say that he is vulnerable is to say that McCain was not charismatic.
However, he maintains he plans to run for a third term.
Likely to jump in the race sometime next month is Kentucky State Senate President David Williams.
Williams is a Republican, but he has taken a beating from local talk-show hosts recently for acting too much like Barack Obama. Among other things, he supported a hike in Kentucky's cigarette and alcohol tax. This led Lexington talk-show host Leland Conway to refuse to allow Williams back on his show unless he first apologized to drinking, smoking Kentuckians for raising their taxes. Williams refused, and forfeited this public venue.
What pins this as such a bellwether for me is the contrast presented between Bunning, the stodgy conservative and Williams, perhaps this state's quintessential representative of a party that is seen by so many to be abandoning its principles.
What could serve to make the race more interesting still is the possible departure of Bunning from the primary.
In this event, waiting in the wings are two potential candidates.
Perhaps the most viable is Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. Grayson was an anomaly last election. He stood in a wind that blew Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher out of office with a 17% loss. Grayson won reelection by 14%.
By and large, Grayson has made no great enemies within his own party. He shrewdly neither enthusiastically endorsed nor, as many Republicans were doing that year, expressed public doubt about Governor Fletcher's chances.
But, we have another, wilder card: Rand Paul. Yes, that Paul, son of presidential candidate Ron Paul, and certainly his father's son.
Should Bunning remain in the race, his primary contest with Williams will serve to illustrate Kentuckian, and perhaps national, Republicans' appetites for traditional fare.
Will they order KFC, or go to Starbucks for a snack?
And if Bunning steps aside, we could have a 3-way between a man seen currently as a RINO, a Kentucky golden boy, or, perhaps the future of the GOP; a lean, mean conservative/libertarian cross.
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