Grimes likens her battle against McConnell to 'The Rumble in the Jungle' as Election Day nears

10/30/2014 01:40 PM

UPDATED: Leaning heavily on boxing analogies Thursday, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes compared her race against Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell to famed Kentucky boxer Muhammad Ali’s surprise eight-round victory over undefeated champion George Foreman 40 years prior.

Sharing the stage again with former President Bill Clinton before a crowd of more than 350 outside the Muhammad Ali Center, Grimes said she would need her supporters in order to “deliver the knockout to Mitch McConnell” in Tuesday’s election.

“My fellow Kentuckians, this race is now in your hands,” she said. “I’m asking each and every one of you: give me your time and your talents. You are the secret weapon that will help to deliver the knockout in a fight that many said couldn’t be won.”

With McConnell leading by 4.4 points according to a public polling aggregate by Real Clear Politics, Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota tried to dispel the reliability of polls and pollsters. She noted that political analyst Nate Silver, formerly of The New York Times and now the ESPN website FiveThirtyEight, gave her an 8 percent chance of victory in her campaign’s closing days when she ran in 2012. She ultimately won the race by fewer than 3,000 votes.

“We are not numbers,” she said. “We are not statistics. We are not data.”

Grimes’ internal pollster, Mark Mellman, also refuted a report Thursday by U.S. News & World Report quoting him saying the Democrat isn’t leading McConnell, “but we hope to be on Election Day.”

Similar to other recent events, speakers urged the crowd to volunteer on behalf of Kentucky’s secretary of state.

Clinton, who joked that Gov. Steve Beshear told him he’d have to file a state tax return because he’s been in the state so many times on the trail for Grimes, made his fourth visit to the state Thursday. The Democratic hopeful, he said, has shown determination in the face of millions in negative attacks by McConnell and outside groups.

“I’m for her for two reasons. One is she’s stood up to the most amazing salt in the United States, and every time they hit her she came back stronger, and that’s what you need in a leader,” Clinton said. “Politics is a contact sport and not for the faint hearted, so you know she’ll be able to stand up for you in Washington. But I’m also for her because she happens to be right on these issues.”

Clinton, Grimes and other speakers hit familiar campaign notes in the election’s waning days. Grimes told the crowd that she would fight for a higher minimum wage and protect Medicaid and Social Security while Clinton largely stuck to economic issues.

McConnell’s high-dollar donors and those who’ve given large sums to outside groups aren’t looking out for Kentucky’s long-term economic health, Clinton said.

“All the people who’ve paid for those negative ads, where are they going to be Wednesday morning?” Clinton asked.

“Crying their eyes out!” a woman shouted in response.

“Yeah, they’re going to be crying their eyes out,” Clinton said. “If you don’t make them cry their eyes out, they’ll be back in Washington, D.C., to collect on their investment. They don’t give a rip about you, so I am begging you, vote for what you’re for. You want to grow the economy from the bottom up? We ought to raise the minimum wage. It’d be good for the economy. I know something about that.”

But Clinton didn’t downplay the daunting task facing Grimes. In his closing sports metaphor, he compared Grimes to David in the closing minutes of a basketball game against Goliath.

“The lead’s shifting back and forth,” the 42nd president said. “We’re down to the last two minutes. The person with the ball at the end of the game’s going to win this. You’ve got to make sure Alison’s got the ball at the end of the game by getting every single solitary soul you know to go and vote and have a victory.”

McConnell’s campaign again sought to link Grimes with President Barack Obama, despite repeatedly identifying herself on the trail as a “Clinton Democrat.”

“Alison Lundergan Grimes is an Obama liberal and six visits from different Clintons doesn’t change the fact that her first vote as a senator would be to empower the Obama agenda,” McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement.

Clinton is scheduled to appear later Thursday in Ashland with Grimes while his wife, former U.S. Secretary of State and potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, will stump for the Democrat in northern Kentucky and Lexington Saturday.

McConnell, meanwhile, announced a barnstorming tour with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky the day before Tuesday’s election, with stops planned in Louisville, northern Kentucky, Lexington, Hazard, Paducah, Owensboro and Bowling Green.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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