BOWLING GREEN — Voting U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell out of office would send a signal to remaining GOP senators that Americans expect more compromise in Washington, former President Bill Clinton told 1,000 enthusiastic Democrats Friday.
Clinton — who appeared at the Bowling Green Regional Airport hangar with McCon nell's challenger, Bruce Lunsford — called Kentucky's Senate race one of national consequence.
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The outcome "can change whether the national government works for this country" regardless of whether Democrats win enough seats to reach a supermajority of 60 votes in the Senate, he said.
"I've been there. I know what I'm talking about," said Clinton. "If you elect Bruce Lunsford in the face of Sen. McConnell's attacks and he is no longer the Republican leader, then the Republicans that are left — whether there's 42, 43, 44 or even 45 of them — will say, 'You know, maybe we ought to sit down and work something out with these Democrats and actually do something about energy and do something about health care.' "
That message was a rebuttal to one of McConnell's key re-election arguments: that he serves as a firewall. McConnell often mentions that as the leader of Republicans, he can drastically affect policy.
"I can afford to lose up to eight to do one of two things: either stop something that's a really bad idea ... but most often, the power of 41 or more in the Senate is used to modify things, to change things, to have a seat at the table and to make legislation that meets in the middle," he said last week.
Clinton, though, warned that proposals to reform health care or increase wages are likely to die even in a Democratic Senate if McConnell remains GOP leader.
"He was one of the most important actors in Washington in the decisions that have led to the disastrous economic, energy, education, international consequences we face today as a nation," he said.
"I'm going to tell you something, if you want to turn America around and get this country going, you should vote for Bruce Lunsford," Clinton said.
Lunsford, during a 10-minute speech, criticized McConnell's wife, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, for campaigning with McConnell in Kentucky this week during a time of economic turmoil.
"You would think that'd be enough to keep our secretary of labor busy," he said.
Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo also told the crowd that Nov. 4 represents "the opportunity of getting rid of the worst United States senator."
"This is a man who cares about his party. He doesn't care about our state," he said.
It was the second trip to Kentucky by a Clinton for Lunsford in a little over a month. In September, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton stumped with Lunsford in Pikeville and Lexington.
Meanwhile, both campaigns continued to poke at each other over an odd squabble left over from Thursday's debate between McConnell and Lunsford.
Republicans filed a criminal complaint after Lunsford allegedly picked up a digital recorder from his lectern and handed it with papers to a staff member. When the staff members realized it belonged to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, they erased the debate recording.
Republicans rushed to file a complaint for theft and destruction of property.
Former Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan made reference to the kerfuffle in his remarks before Clinton spoke.
"Yesterday, in Paducah, we wanted to talk about the issues," he said. "What did he (McConnell) want to do? He wanted to bug Bruce Lunsford's podium."
Before Clinton's appearance, GOP aides held up a giant sign outside the hangar quoting the Associated Press's headline: "AP: Lunsford under criminal investigation."