Hillary Clinton rallies Democrats for Grimes in Lexington, northern Kentucky

11/01/2014 06:43 PM

LEXINGTON — Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton struck a populist tone in her final campaign pitch for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes Saturday, stumping twice for Grimes days after a new poll shows her trailing U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Regardless of survey results that have her 5 points behind the five-term incumbent, Clinton, Grimes and a cadre of Democratic politicians urged a crowd of about 1,400 enthusiastic supporters at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium to volunteer and push Grimes toward an Election Day victory in the face of an all-out advertising blitz.

Republicans and outside groups supporting McConnell, the Senate’s Republican leader, have resorted to fear-based tactics to keep voters from the polls on Tuesday, said Clinton, a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016. Grimes, too, alluded to more than $50 million in attack ads that have aired against her and, referencing a lawsuit she filed in Franklin Circuit Court Friday, said her opponent has resorted to scaring voters in eastern Kentucky counties through “election violation notice” mailers assaulting Grimes for fraudulent hits against McConnell.

“Fear is the last resort of those who have run out of ideas and run out of hope, and fear is the go-to strategy for the other side,” Clinton, who appeared in Lexington following a similar rally in northern Kentucky, said in her 23-minute speech.

“I’ve seen it time and time again, and we’re seeing it here in this race — just throw as much mud up against the wall and through the TV screens and through the radio airwaves and the direct mail and any other way you can distribute it and just hope enough of it sticks so that you don’t have to accountable to the people in a way that you should be.”

Such tactics only prove to disempower voters, she said, some of whom will choose to skip Election Day altogether.

“They will tune out instead of turnout because they have been infected with confusion and fear,” Clinton said. “It is your job in the next three days to dispel that, to lift that veil of fear because Kentucky and America’s going to be living with the results of this election for a long time.”

The latest Bluegrass Poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal, The Lexington Herald-Leader, WHAS-TV and WKYT-TV, shows that some of that mud has clung to Grimes in the campaign’s waning days, however. Grimes’ favorability numbers now nearly mirror McConnell’s, with 37 percent of respondents viewing her favorably versus 43 percent seeing her unfavorably.

The Democrat also trailed McConnell among female respondents by 4 percent in the Bluegrass Poll, even though she has made certain female issues, such as pay equity for women workers, key planks of her campaign platform.

Clinton focused much of her speech on economic issues, including pay equity and raising the minimum wage. Those remarks reflect those made by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, at a campaign stop in Louisville Thursday. Hillary Clinton harkened back to her husband’s presidency, saying raising the minimum wage while he was in the White House aided lower-class workers while increasing job growth.

“What happened when my husband raised the minimum wage in the 90s? Well, millions of new jobs were created, more families made it into the middle class,” she said.

Increasing the minimum wage would also aid female workers, Clinton said, noting two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women, “many of them single moms” working “two, even three jobs just to keep their families afloat.”

Reintroducing the matter of pay equity, Clinton said women statistically earn lower wages than men.

“Think about what that means,” she said. “Kentucky women and their families lost an average of nearly $9,000 a year because of the unequal wage gap. And think about what a hard-working mom could do with that money — the better home she could rent or even buy, the car she could get fixed or the new car she might be able to afford, putting a little money away for a rainy day for a sick relative or college education or retirement.”

Although the latest state poll shows her favorability numbers trending in the wrong direction as she faces a barrage of attack ads, Grimes is banking on her turnout effort to put her in the proverbial winner’s circle on Tuesday. Every speaker held a volunteer card near the end of their remarks and implored the crowd to fill one out with Election Day nearing.

“I do believe the people of this state are ready to have their voices heard, and they’re not going to let some millionaire and billionaire from out of state buy Mitch McConnell’s way back to Washington, D.C.,” Grimes said.

But McConnell’s campaign is also doing its part to get supporters to the polls. His camp touted its volunteer effort in a press release Saturday, saying volunteers have knocked on 200,000 doors in the last two weeks and 1 million overall, with 2.3 million voters reached via phone.

“Our momentum shifted into overdrive this weekend as thousands of Kentucky volunteers fanned out across the Bluegrass as part of an unprecedented effort to turn out the vote,” McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. “We’re seeing a tremendous response from the people we’ve contact and overwhelming enthusiasm for Sen. McConnell heading into Tuesday’s election.”

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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