As I mentioned earlier, Mitch McConnell’s campaign committed the mother of all unforced errors yesterday with a campaign video that improbably included a clip of Duke basketball players celebrating a national championship.

This was revealed to the world by Kentucky blogger Joe Sonka, whose account of the gaffe is amusing and instructive:

I was the tenth person to watch this video yesterday morning, and when I got to the very end I noticed not just the Louisville player going in for a dunk, but another quick image that looked out of place. It was two players celebrating as confetti rained upon them, but it sure as hell didn’t look like UK players. I thought to myself: What team wearing blue and white recently won a national championship? After tracing back the past few winners in my head, a ridiculously improbable thought struck me, just as my finely tuned Duke Hatred Spidey Sense began to tingle. Surely not…

After going back and freezing the frame at the 1:09 mark, I recognized those devilish stripes on the uniform and that very Dukie face. To double-verify I checked the Duke 2010 roster, and sure enough there was Lance Thomas, No. 42. I ripped the video — as I was quite certain this would soon erase from the Interwebs — and tweeted out the news about the implausible stars of McConnell’s new ad.

The ad came down, but not before Sonka put it up on YouTube. In case you are missing the source of outrage, Duke-hatred is more virulent in the Bluegrass State than anywhere outside Chapel Hill; “I Still Hate Christian Laettner” t-shirts remain common.

In an effort to save face — and all of the money they spent on the video — McConnell’s campaign put the video back up, but replaced the happy Dukies with a photo of UK’s star forward Julius Randle. Problem solved, right?….


It turns out that UK was concerned about a possible NCAA violation caused by Team Mitch using Randle in the video, so they sent a cease and desist letter to McConnell demanding that he take it down, which they did….

Another political rule of thumb in the state of Kentucky: Potentially jeopardizing the eligibility of UK’s best player just before their biggest game of the year, simply so you can exploit his popularity for your own personal political gain, is somewhat frowned upon in these parts.

I strongly suspect Ashley Judd is wishing she’d run for the Senate after all.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.