LOUISVILLE — Former President Bill Clinton urged Kentuckians on Monday night to send Democrat Jack Conway to the U.S. Senate, but Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul called Clinton's election-eve push "too little, too late."
Clinton, who spoke for 36 minutes to a crowd of about 2,000 on the University of Louisville campus, said Conway "says more about where we need to go, what we need to do and how we need to do it" than any U.S. Senate candidate in America this fall.
Standing in front of a statue of Rodin's The Thinker and near the U of L Brandeis School of Law, Clinton said voters should look at the facts about where Republicans want to take this country.
"Why is this even a race?" he asked, contending that the GOP administration of former President George W. Bush created the sour economy.
Never miss a local story.
Clinton also chided Paul for calling for abolition of the U.S. Department of Education, saying the move could hurt funding for Kentucky schools and aid to higher education.
In introducing Clinton, Conway, the state's attorney general, said that Kentucky loves Clinton and that he admires how far Clinton has come from a poor childhood.
"He didn't have a father who ran for president and turned over an Internet fund-raising computer base to him," Conway said in referring to Paul's father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who ran for president in 2008 and raised money through online fund-raisers called "money bombs."
Before the rally, Conway said Clinton's second visit to the state for him this fall will help him with voter turnout. Clinton campaigned for Conway last month on the University of Kentucky campus.
Though polls show him trailing Paul, Conway said he is confident he will win.
Asked whether he would have done anything differently in the race, Conway said, "Nothing. My father has a great saying, 'You can't drive the road of life looking in the rearview mirror.'
At a stop earlier in the day in Louisville, Paul also was asked whether he would have done anything differently.
"Not a thing," Paul said. "It's been sort of a Cinderella story, and we're happy about it."
Paul and Conway flew around the state Monday, visiting various cities to rally support before voters head to the polls early Tuesday.
During a midday stop at the Lexington airport, Paul said he was tired but confident.
Paul said a "perfect storm" is blowing his way because of unhappiness with President Barack Obama's agenda and the huge federal deficit.
Paul predicted Kentucky voters will choose him to send a message that it's time to reduce the scope and spending of the federal government.
"To tell you the truth, the deficit is so enormous now, people do want somebody to say, 'You know what, they're not obeying the rules. Let's make 'em obey some rules up there,'" said Paul, who has made cutting federal spending and the deficit a central issue in his campaign.
He has said he will introduce a plan to balance the budget in five years. He said he could not provide comprehensive details before the election but that no part of the budget should be off the table for potential cuts.
Paul did not mention his opponent during a short speech to a small group of supporters, focusing instead, as he has done often, on Obama. Paul said he thinks he has been ahead throughout the race.
When asked whether there was one thing that pushed the race his way, Paul mentioned a controversial television ad by Conway.
The ad referred to Paul's membership in a secret society at Baylor University in the early 1980s that mocked Christianity in satirical articles and had been banned from the Baptist-affiliated school shortly before Paul came to campus.
The ad also mentioned another college incident in which a woman, who has remained anonymous, said Paul, as part of an odd prank, tried to get her to smoke pot, then took her to a creek outside town, told her he worshiped "Aqua Buddha," and made her bow down. Paul has called the accusations "all lies."
Conway's camp said the ad was meant to question Paul's judgment, but Paul said many voters perceived it as an unwarranted attack on his faith, using old information.
During campaign stops Monday and at the rally with Clinton, Conway criticized the tide of money that pro-Republican groups from outside the state have spent on television and radio ads, mailings and phone calls aimed at defeating him.
The biggest spenders have included American Crossroads and a sister group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies. Karl Rove, a top advisor to former President George W. Bush, has been a key force in the groups.
"We've taken a lot of hits from special-interest money," Conway said. "Karl Rove has raised probably more money into this race per voter than any other race in the country, and it's been brought in here to distort my record."
Paul had been asked earlier how he would counter special-interest groups who might expect a reward for their spending.
"I won't entertain any lobbying from any group that isn't consistent with my core beliefs, basically," Paul said.
Conway is to meet with his supporters Tuesday night at downtown Louisville's Marriott, and Paul is to gather with his backers at Bowling Green's convention center.