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In Kentucky, basketball is political

3/15/2010

In an ideal democracy with informed citizens and open public debate about important issues, you wouldn't think basketball allegiances would come into play. As we don't live in an ideal democracy, and as the political issue in question here happens to be the race for a U.S. Senate nomination in Kentucky, you'd have thought wrong. It is.

Current Kentucky secretary of state Trey Grayson is in a pitted fight against Rand Paul, son of iconoclastic 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul, in the U.S. Senate Republican primary in Kentucky. Seeking to pull the timeless "he's not one of us" political gambit, Grayson created a truly hilarious political ad featuring video of Paul saying the words "I'm Rand Paul, and I'm a Duke Blue Devil." Ah! Outsider! Get him away!

In the ad, which was posted on Grayson's site with the URL descriptor "beat-duke," Grayson says: "There are big differences between Rand Paul and me. But in Kentucky in March, there's one big difference." The Paul video rolls, and Grayon continues: "I'm proud to say I'm a Kentucky Wildcat. I'm Trey Grayson, and I approved this message because I will always cheer for the Big Blue." Groan.

Why is this so hilarious? (Besides, of course, the fact that a candidate for one of the highest offices in our nation's government is using basketball as a wedge issue?) Grayson attended Harvard, where he completed his undergraduate degree before completing a JD/MBA dual-degree program at Kentucky. For some reason, that didn't make it into the ad.

Paul noticed this disparity, too. His statement: "I guess that might be a real issue if you're running for student council. It's especially funny watching my Harvard-educated opponent complain about where I went to medical school." (For what it's worth, Rand went to undergrad at Baylor before attending Duke medical school. Who does he root for in the South region? The public wants to know!)

Anyway, to put it bluntly, both of these candidates are very smart men with very impressive academic résumés running for a very important position in a very important branch of the United States government. And the primary issue at hand here is Kentucky basketball. What's even sadder is that Wildcat love and Blue Devil hatred run so deep in Big Blue Nation that I wouldn't be surprised if Grayson's shallow strategy actually works. It seemed like a good idea for a reason, after all.

The only solution to this mess? Spurning both candidates and electing John Calipari to the Senate. It's the next logical step.