“Kentucky is Clinton Country,” Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes shouted Tuesday as she pumped her first in the air. A sold-out room of Kentucky Democrats pumped their fists in unison, clapped and cheered in agreement about the presence of the former president.
The Big Dog, as some Democrats have taken to calling Clinton, selected Louisville to fire his first shot of the 2014 campaign season. He chose the Bluegrass State in part because Grimes could use the help of the man who is arguably the most popular Democrat in the land if she is to have a chance at winning one of Kentucky’s Senate seats.
“It makes a big difference who wins this election. Alison Lundergan Grimes should win it and will with your help,” Clinton said at the end of a long, philosophical speech.
She is taking on a juggernaut in Kentucky politics: the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. “He is out of touch, he is out of ideas and come November with your help and support, he will be out of time,” Grimes told the crowd.
Polls amount to a statistical dead heat. The Real Clear Politics Average shows Grimes at 43 and McConnell at 42.5. So Grimes has a shot, but analysts say it is a long one.
McConnell is a veteran of three decades in politics. His calm demeanor is contrasted by his bare-knuckles approach to campaigning.
He was unruffled by Clinton’s campaign stop. “In 2008 Bill and Hillary Clinton came to town the day before the election and I won by 100,000 votes. I welcome President Clinton back to Kentucky. Anytime he’s come, it’s been really good for me,” McConnell said in Washington.
Both Clinton and his wife have had a long, close relationship with Grimes’ father. Jerry Lundergan is an old Bluegrass State politician, who raised money and assisted both Clintons. He even ran Hillary’s statewide campaign.
The stop puts the former president on the home turf of Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, who has been mentioning the Monica Lewinsky scandal whenever asked.
“Anybody else, they would fire their president they would fire any executive who did this to a young intern in the workplace. So, I don’t think that was acceptable and I don’t think he is a great representative for Kentucky values or their families,” Paul told Fox News.
Absent from the campaign stop was any mention of the current president. In fact, Grimes steered clear of mentioning the Affordable Care Act or the Obama administration’s environmental policies, called “The War on Coal” by eastern Kentucky miners.
As to whether Grimes would like help on the campaign from President Obama, she seemed to give him the stiff arm. “I speak for myself and I don’t need any other surrogate to do that,” Grimes told NBC News.
Not to be overlooked, McConnell has an opponent in the Republican primary named Matt Bevin, who has support from Tea Party members who resent McConnell’s decision to allow a vote on the debt ceiling. However, the numbers show Bevin has not yet mounted a threat to Kentucky’s senior senator.