LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes turned to Bill Clinton on Wednesday to help insulate her from an unpopular Democratic president that is dragging down her support in the traditional Democratic stronghold of eastern Kentucky.
Participants at the $200-minimum fundraiser in Lexington could buy throwback campaign buttons on their way in, including one declaring "Bring back peace, prosperity & Bill."
Many here wished they could bring back the former president, who won Kentucky twice and remains a popular figure more than a decade after leaving office. Instead Grimes has had to run a campaign distancing herself from President Barack Obama, particularly his policies on coal, which have angered many longtime Democrats in eastern Kentucky.
"I started out a big Obama supporter, and I've kind of backed off on that. I think he's fallen down on leadership," said Ron Easter, who traveled more than 70 miles from Lee County in eastern Kentucky to attend Wednesday's fundraiser. "I think that Grimes is, you know, I think she is that type of leader like Bill Clinton was."
That's the message the Grimes campaign is trying to send on Wednesday, with the Clinton fundraiser in the morning followed by a campaign rally with coal miners in Hazard later in the day. Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst hinted to reporters that Bill Clinton could appear in some TV ads with Grimes this fall.
Grimes "is a Clinton Democrat," Hurst said. "President Clinton will probably be part of our strategy."
But Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign said there was no difference between Bill Clinton and Obama, pointing to a blog post Clinton wrote earlier this summer applauding the Environmental Protection Agency's new rules restricting carbon emissions on coal-fired power plants.
"Evidently (Grimes) doesn't think eastern Kentuckians can execute a basic Google search to reveal that Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and now Alison Lundergan Grimes have every intention of continuing to attack their way of life," McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said.
McConnell will kick off a two-day, 10-county bus tour through eastern Kentucky on Thursday with Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, who has represented that area of the state for more than three decades.
Original headline: Bill Clinton rallies Kentucky Senate race voters
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