Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


February 25, 2014

Clinton comes in support of Grimes

LOUISVILLE — Bill Clinton, a southern Democratic governor who pulled his national party back to the center and focused on “the economy, stupid” in winning two presidential elections, came to Kentucky Tuesday to support Alison Lundergan Grimes in her campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Clinton kept the message on economic themes, saying America’s greatest achievement in the first half of the 20th Century was building the class theme and calling for an increase in the minimum wage.

Grimes, the first-term state Secretary of State and the daughter of Clinton friend Jerry Lundergan, is trying to take down five-term incumbent and Republican Senate Leader McConnell by casting herself as a fresh face and criticizing McConnell for voting repeatedly against raising the minimum wage. While Clinton sat and listened, Grimes recalled as a 14-year-old presenting Clinton with a bouquet of roses at his first presidential inauguration, calling him “a friend, a mentor and an advisor.”

Clinton, the last national Democrat to carry Kentucky, told the crowd of about 1,200 at the Galt House that Grimes has a serious jobs plan “that will actually do something,” and she will fight for the middle class when she gets to Washington rather than focus on her own power as McConnell does.

“You have a Senate candidate who believes in you, who wants to help you and who wants this job for you,” Clinton said. Holding up the jobs plan, Clinton said, “This is an expression of trust in the people of Kentucky.”

McConnell, on the other hand, Clinton said, is focused on his own job and power and is “brilliant” at negative campaigning with “mean ads” which turn off voters and drive down turnout.

Even as Clinton spoke, the McConnell campaign emailed responses to reporters, saying Grimes’ jobs plan “lacks specifics” and criticizing the Grimes campaign’s focus on women voters and issues by saying it is hypocritical to bring Clinton to campaign. Clinton notoriously was involved in an affair while in the White House.

That message wouldn’t have mattered here — Clinton is a rock star to many Kentucky Democrats.

“I love Kentucky,” Clinton said in response to the loud ovation he got after Grimes introduced him. “You’ve been good to me and voted for me twice.”

But Clinton said those who support Grimes must understand McConnell is “little short of brilliant” at tearing down opponents and it’s important Kentucky Democrats get out and vote for Grimes.

“It makes a big difference who wins this election,” Clinton said. He said the choice is about people like Taneesha Booker, an African American wife and mother from Louisville’s west end who appears in a Grimes video and introduced Grimes before she and Clinton walked on stage.

He said his proudest achievement as president was the number of people who climbed out of poverty and into the middle class. But that’s changing, Clinton said, and the country needs leaders like Grimes who will fight for hard-working families like Booker’s.

He also hit on McConnell’s reputation for tough, negative campaign advertising.

”You will not get anywhere calling a name,” Clinton said, referring to McConnell’s style. “You either focus on helping people or keeping yourself in power.”

The themes echoed what Grimes has said throughout the campaign and what she said Tuesday before Clinton took the microphone.

“The difference between our campaign and that of Mitch McConnell couldn’t be more clear,” Grimes said. “My vision of the future ends and begins with the middle class.” She went on to call for an increase in the minimum wage while saying McConnell had increased his own wealth while voting 15 times against raising the federal minimum wage.

She said she won’t let a “Washington politician” and multi-millionaire tell her “that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is going to hurt our economy.”

In a brief interview after the event, Grimes said she was honored to have Clinton make his first appearance in the 2014 election cycle for her.

“What better endorsement could you have than to have the ‘jobs president’ come to Kentucky for the jobs candidate?” she asked.

Campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said the event raised more than $604,000 for the campaign.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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