LAWRENCEBURG — Former President Bill Clinton will campaign for Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway on the eve of the Nov. 2 election, a signal that national Democrats remain hopeful that Conway can beat Republican nominee Rand Paul.
Conway campaign spokeswoman Allison Haley confirmed Clinton's return visit but said locations of Clinton's appearances have not been finalized. Observers said it's likely the campaign will attempt to use Clinton's popularity to excite conservative Democrats in Eastern and Western Kentucky.
Meanwhile, the Conway camp began pivoting from a controversial ad about Paul's college days, which garnered much national attention this week, toward the pocketbook issue of taxes.
Conway, during campaign stops in Central Kentucky, played up Paul's conflicting statements about replacing the federal income tax with a 23 percent sales tax. Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee started running an ad Thursday that claimed "Rand Paul wants to put a 23 percent sales tax on everything you buy."
The Paul campaign, however, has denied support for the sales tax. Paul wrote in a statement released by an anti-tax group last week that he supported the so-called FairTax, but later backed off, suggesting he only supports "a simpler tax code."
Paul's campaign had no immediate comment on Clinton's return to the state for Conway.
Lexington businessman Jerry Lundergan, who is a close friend of the former president, said he has talked to Clinton, "and he has assured me that he will come back to Kentucky to campaign for Jack."
Clinton, who recently was named in a national poll the most popular politician in America, attracted an estimated crowd of about 5,000 for Conway at an Oct. 11 rally in Lexington. Several Democrats said Clinton's visit should have been in a rural area of the state instead of Lexington.
Clinton's return appearance for Conway is "another indication that Jack is well-positioned to win this race," Haley said.
A Kentucky Poll released Wednesday showed Paul leading Conway by 5 percentage points statewide with Conway ahead in the congressional districts with the state's two largest cities, Louisville and Lexington.
After the Clinton visit earlier this month on the University of Kentucky campus, Paul said he was not sure he "would trust a guy who has had sexual relations with an intern." He was referring to Clinton's liaison with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Asked Thursday if Clinton was aware of Paul's remarks, Lundergan said he has not talked to Clinton about them, "but the president is very, very informed."
Lundergan said Clinton "sees a lot of similarities with his early campaigns and what Jack is doing."
Clinton carried Kentucky in both 1992 and 1996.
Besides Clinton's Nov. 1 visit, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, is to campaign with Conway next week in Hopkinsville. Conway said Tester is a farmer and will be discussing farm issues with him in Western Kentucky.
Meanwhile, Paul said he will announce at a campaign stop in Lexington Friday afternoon whether he will participate in a scheduled debate Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television with Conway.
Paul, speaking Thursday at a news conference in Louisville, said he was "saddened" by the tone of Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, which has focused in recent days on the Conway ad about Paul's involvement in a secret society in the 1980s at Baylor University in Texas.
It raises questions about Paul's religious beliefs and alleges that he tied up a woman and forced her to worship a god called "Aqua Buddha."
Paul said Monday that he might pull out of the KET debate because he did not want to appear in public with Conway. Paul has said the allegations in Conway's ad are "lies."
Conway said Thursday that he intends to show up at KET. "A famous American comic once said 90 percent of success is showing up," Conway said during a stop in Frankfort. "And this is no time to take your ball and go home."
Paul mostly kept to his themes of low taxes and limited government Thursday while signing a pledge with the American Family Business Institute to support killing the federal estate tax.
The estate tax had a top rate of 55 percent that was gradually reduced and then repealed for 2010. The tax, which critics derisively call the "death tax," is scheduled to return to 55 percent next year, with a $1 million exemption.
"I think simply the act of dying should not be taxed in our country," Paul said.