Mitch McConnell campaign ad: New ad mistakenly uses Duke instead of UK basketball.

Mitch McConnell Commits an Original Bluegrass Sin

Mitch McConnell Commits an Original Bluegrass Sin

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March 26 2014 4:02 PM

Mitch McConnell Commits an Original Bluegrass Sin

Mitch McConnell's campaign went 0-for-2 from the line yesterday and, in the process, the Senate minority leader risked riling up his state's notoriously impassioned college basketball fan base. If nothing else, the unforced errors provided his Democratic challenger with an easy opening to score a few freebies in a high-spending (and increasingly tight) Kentucky campaign.

McConnell's first mistake came with the release of a new campaign video, which, at first glance, was just your run-of-the-mill political spot. It touted, among other things, conservative values, American flags, and the importance of the current political moment. Toward the end though (at about the 1:07 minute mark), the ad finishes with what should have been three iconic Kentucky images: one of horse racing, and one each of the state's two college basketball powerhouses, the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky, celebrating their most recent national championships. 


Except the final clip that the McConnell campaign used wasn't Kentucky in 2012. It was Duke in 2010. This, short of declaring Tennessee the official home of bourbon, is about as egregious of an unforced error as could be made in the minds of a Kentucky fan base still haunted by images of Duke great Christian Laettner.

The video (which can be seen above) was quickly pulled down by the campaign, but not before LEO weekly's Joe Sonka grabbed it, immortalizing the two-second gaffe online. McConnell's critics quickly seized on the mistake, most notably Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes who promised on Twitter "to never glorify a Duke championship in a campaign ad." (At this point, that could probably serve as campaign ad in at least 49—and maybe even 50—states.)

In an attempt to salvage the spot, McConnell's team then swapped out the Duke celebration with an image of Julius Randle—the star power forward on this year's Sweet 16-bound Kentucky team—and put the video back online. Mistake no. 2: The use of Randle's image could have been an NCAA violation for the Cats (rules regarding the use of the likenesses of current players are extremely strict) so the McConnell campaign was immediately hit with a cease and desist letter from the university.

Following that brick, the video was finally pulled down in it's entirety, with the campaign releasing a statement apologizing for "any inconvenience this may have caused."

A.J. McCarthy is a speechwriter for New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and a former Slate writer and producer.