This week in politics: Praise the home team, beware undercover agents

It’s only Thursday, but this week in politics already has offered more than a few reminders of the basic rules. To wit:

--Never diss the home team. 

--Check the video, carefully.

--Assume that words spoken in private will soon become very public.

--And, when worrying aloud about undercover federal agents, make sure the person you’re speaking to isn’t one.

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Basketball is more than a sport in Kentucky. Its rivalries are deep and generational, its defeats neither forgotten nor forgiven. So it was with no little embarrassment that Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, embroiled in a pesky primary fight and looking to a high-profile general election challenge, found that his online campaign video meant to tout the locals had included shots of another team. Not just any other team: Duke, the Kentucky Wildcats’ fierce rival, particularly since a 1992 regional championship game in which the Blue Devils crushed Kentucky’s national title hopes with a last-second shot.

McConnell’s spokeswoman properly described the campaign as “horrified” by the mistake and blamed it on a vendor. The snippet was replaced, but the new one was problematic as well; it featured a current Kentucky player, an inclusion that threatened to run afoul of NCAA rules. The video ultimately was pulled.

Unfortunately for McConnell, there’s a big overlap between sports and politics aficionados, which gave the error more resonance. Everyone piled on, with the Lexington Herald-Leader headline calling McConnell’s move “a flagrant foul.”

“KY, as your next Senator, I promise to never glorify a Duke championship in a campaign ad like @Team_Mitch,” faux-bristled Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat running for McConnell’s seat. “Turns out @Team_Mitch has been in DC for so long he can't tell the difference between UK & Duke basketball.”

Touche, but not for long. Lexington political writer Sam Youngman noted a certain lack of geographic loyalty in Grimes’ own March Madness picks.

“Grimes had Kentucky losing to Wichita State in her tournament bracket, picking Florida to beat Louisville in the final game,” he wrote.

Kentucky will play another rival, in-state Louisville, in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament Friday night.

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McConnell’s video may have been embarrassing, but it was not nearly as mind-bendingly suggestive as one aired by Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst. The candidate, a Republican state senator in a crowded GOP field, dives right into that rare conversation about … pig testicles.

“I’m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington I’ll know how to cut pork,” she says.

As thoughts turn graphically to the potential of knives on politicians, Ernst smiles pleasantly at the camera, and then the screen is filled with video of charming piglets in their stalls. They seem happy and, presumably, intact.

“My parents taught us to live within our means; it’s time to force Washington to do the same,” she says, then gives the metaphor a final push: “I’m Joni Ernst and I approve this message, because Washington’s full of big spenders. Let’s make ‘em squeal.”

Ouch. Then again, it’s Iowa.

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