Saying the Kentucky Senate race will make a big difference across the country, former President Bill Clinton stumped for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes before a packed crowd on Tuesday.
During a 25-minute speech, Clinton, who is longtime friends with Grimes’s father, Jerry Lundergan, praised the Democratic nominee while taking swipes at Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell’s campaign and leadership style.
Clinton said leaders in Washington can choose to fix problems like the health care law or “pout,” adding the latter is a “dumb way to run a country.”
Referencing political attack ads, Clinton credited McConnell’s brilliance at defining a race but dinged GOP critics for failing to come up with solid solutions.
“You will not get anywhere calling somebody a name,” Clinton said. “You will not get anywhere putting any of these people to work, training anybody, giving them access to broadband or capital or inducing people to invest in their neighborhoods by running an ad saying whatever the heck these crazy groups are going to say about Alison between now and Election Day.”
“And I have to believe down deep inside the people of Kentucky know that stuff for what it is.”
The fundraiser was Clinton’s first appearance on the 2014 election campaign trail, but a familiar stop for the former president. The former president won Kentucky twice when he was running and has campaigned in the state for his wife’s presidential bid in 2008 and Attorney General Jack Conway in his 2010 Senate race against Rand Paul.
Grimes and Clinton have known each other for over 20 years and the relationship is thought to be an asset given the former president’s popularity in the state.
“I think it goes without saying that Kentucky is Clinton country,” Grimes said.
“We all know what the problem is. It’s a Washington, D.C. that just doesn’t understand Kentucky. We have leaders that are more focused on partisan politics rather than on the people of this state. And with hyper-partisan people like Mitch McConnell calling the shots, it’s not progress and prosperity we see, it’s obstruction and gridlock.”
Clinton’s visit drew more than 1,200 people to the Galt House in Louisville and the Grimes campaign said the luncheon raised over $604,000 from donors.
But McConnell’s camp didn’t lie down in reaction to the visit and reminded voters about Clinton’s previous sex scandals as president.
In an e-mail to supporters, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton echoed his uncle, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., by noting the “real Clinton record.” Benton added it was hypocritical for Grimes to campaign on women’s issues while “having Bill Clinton as your primary surrogate.”
National GOP groups bypassed a direct shot at the Lewinsky scandal, but did mention a Democrat who was noticeably absent from the Grimes-Clinton fundraiser—current President Barack Obama.
“No matter how many times the Clintons come to Kentucky, it doesn’t hide the fact that Alison Lundergan Grimes’ very presence in the Senate would be another vote for the radical Obama Agenda including the War on Coal,” says National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen. “Kentucky voters are far more interested in having Alison Lundergan Grimes stop ducking the press and start answering questions than flying in Bill Clinton or other celebrities to prop up her lagging campaign.”
But Grimes and Clinton’s focused their comments mostly on an economic agenda and the lack of accomplishments in Congress.
Both stressed issues such as raising the minimum wage and the need to compromise. Joined by other Democratic officials, it gave the state and national party a chance to bring their contrast on this race to the national level.
“In the end what this is about is whether you want somebody who puts people first, who cares about rebuilding the middle-class and who believes we should cooperate with anybody that’s got a good idea to move forward,” Clinton said. “Or we should stay with this model of constant conflict, which can generate unlimited amounts of special interest money to keep people stuck in their ideological ruts. Nothing good will happen except the people who are on the receiving end of the benefits may win one more election. But real people don’t win that way.”
Clinton also endorsed the Grimes campaign jobs plan, especially its ideas to get military veterans back to work.
The McConnell campaign was quick to point out that Grimes herself has yet to explain how much the jobs plan would cost or how she would pay for it. Other GOP critics noted a Congressional Budget Office report, saying a $10.10 minimum wage hike could reduce the U.S. workforce by 500,000 jobs over the next two years.
And speaking to reporters in Washington, McConnell reminded observers that when Clinton has stumped in Kentucky in years past Republicans have won by comfortable margins.
From USA Today:
“The last time (Clinton) ran in 1996, he eked out a narrow victory in Kentucky, while I beat the current governor by 160,000 votes, 10 points. In 2008, both Bill and Hillary Clinton came to town, including the day before the election, and I won by 100,000 votes,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters. “So I welcome President Clinton back to Kentucky. Every time he’s come, it’s been really good for me.”