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Hundreds Cheer, Jeer Candidates At Fancy Farm

Hundreds of people flocked to a small Kentucky town to cheer and jeer Senate candidates Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The 134th Fancy Farm picnic is a fundraiser for the St. Jerome Catholic Church and marks the official start of Kentucky's campaign season.

See Kentucky Educational Television's videos of all the speeches here.

The Republican leader of the Senate, McConnell is locked in one of the closest Senate races in the country.

Some Republican supporters carried signs touting "Alison's dilemma ... be a devout Democrat or a real Catholic." On the Democratic side, a supporter held a sign asking "What would Jesus do? Vote 4 Grimes."

Competing in one of the most-watched Senate races in the country, McConnell and Grimes put some snark of their own in their usual campaign rhetoric - and sat just a few feet away from each other in a rare joint appearance. So far, their expensive campaign has been waged mostly through TV ads and news releases.

While Grimes, a Catholic, and McConnell, a Baptist, have hardly mentioned faith in their pitches for votes, religion was on display in the parish of the St. Jerome Catholic Church almost as much as the barbecue served up to picnickers and politicos.

St. Jerome church member Tony Thomas, a registered Democrat who supports McConnell, said he didn't know Grimes was Catholic. "If I was coming to a Catholic picnic, I would sure let that be known," Thomas said, adding: "It's not that we like Mitch McConnell, but it's a vote against Barack Obama."

Reba Cobb, a Cooperative Baptist Minister, said she found more of a connection between her faith and Grimes than her Republican opponent.

"I've studied scripture and I truly believe that Jesus is for justice for all people," Cobb said. "I believe in justice for everybody, and I believe that Alison represents that."

Both campaigns bused in hundreds of supporters from across the state who were as much a part of the speeches as the candidates. Those in red shirts backed McConnell, those in blue Grimes.

The red shirts chanted "Obama needs Grimes. Kentucky needs McConnell" during pauses in McConnell's speech.

McConnell supporter Sheila Hodges said she traveled from Tompkinsville with the help of the McConnell campaign to stand and sweat for four hours so she could shout her opinions, including, "No more Obama bots!"

"I'm sick of what's going on in Washington and I don't want her in Washington. She is going to be exactly what we've got there, just another minion for Obama," Hodges said.

Grimes used her speech to announce an endorsement from the United Mine Workers, a counter to the McConnell campaign saying Grimes is against the coal industry in Kentucky, the third-most coal producing state in the country.

She continued to criticize McConnell on pocketbook issues, including his vote against a bill that would have mandated fair wages for women workers.

Seated behind Grimes during her speech, McConnell smiled through most of it. His speech contrasted his 30 years of federal government experience to Grimes, a first-term secretary of state responsible for state elections and business filings.

He poked fun at Grimes' comments last week about Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system preventing terrorists from tunneling into Israel. (After ridicule from the McConnell campaign, she said that she meant to say the shield allowed Israel to turn its attention to the tunnels.) But most of McConnell's speech was less about Grimes than it was about Obama, who remains unpopular in Kentucky.

Next week, both campaigns will visit the coal country of eastern Kentucky as former President Bill Clinton campaigns for Grimes and Republican Rep. Hal Rogers appears with McConnell.

Here are some of the more memorable lines from Saturday's stump speeches:

—Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell: "There's only one way to change America in 2014. There's only one way to begin to go in a different direction. That's to change the Senate and make me the leader of a new majority to take America in a different direction."

—Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes: "It's not easy being Mitch McConnell. He's been in Washington, D.C., so long he thinks Duke's in Kentucky and Cloverlick's not. But I've got news for the folks in Cloverlick. If Mitch McConnell doesn't know where your town is, it just makes it harder for him to shift your jobs overseas. But don't worry Cloverlick, you're not alone. Mitch McConnell forgot about most Kentuckians a long time ago."

—McConnell: "By any standard, Barack Obama has been a disaster for our country. If you think about it, that's what you get for electing someone who has no experience. He was only two years into his first job when he started campaigning for the next one. Sound familiar? His campaign raised millions from extreme liberals. Sound familiar? He really didn't have any qualifications at all. Sound familiar?"

—Grimes: "If Mitch McConnell were a TV show, he'd be 'Mad Men.' Treating women unfairly, stuck in 1968 and ending next season."

—McConnell: "With so much turmoil around the world, we can't afford a leader who thinks the West Bank is a Hollywood fundraiser."

—Grimes: "Thanks to you, D.C. stands for 'doesn't care.'"

—Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, part of a poem aimed at Grimes: "To liberals, she whispers coal makes you sick. In Kentucky, she claims coal makes us tick. To the liberals, she sells her soul. The same ones who hate Kentucky coal. One thing that we know is true, one thing we know is guaranteed, she'd cast her first vote for Harry Reid."

—Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, after he took a selfie with Sen. Mitch McConnell: "I'm sorry, I just had to get one last photo of the senator before Kentucky voters retire him in November. "And retire him they will, because Kentuckians are tired of the partisan bickering in Washington. They're tired of dysfunctional government. They're tired of name calling. They're tired of obstructionism. And Sen. Mitch McConnell has been chief obstructionist for the last 30 years."

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