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Lunsford says he expects support from U.S. senators

LOUISVILLE — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Lunsford said he’s expecting a couple of prominent senators — and vice presidential contenders — to campaign with him this fall.

Lunsford said he’s planning to get help from U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Joe Biden of Delaware in his quest to unseat Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. Both made Barack Obama’s short list for possible running mates.

”I have every reason to believe,“ that Clinton and other prominent senators will arrive to help between now and Nov. 4, Lunsford said.

He added that Biden had pledged that ”he would come here to help me every time I wanted.“

McConnell welcomed the idea of Lunsford getting help from national Democratic figures, whom Kentucky Republicans have traditionally painted as far more liberal than voters in the Bluegrass state.

”I would welcome my opponent to bring any national Democrats in here that he wants to,“ McConnell said. ”It only underscores how much in synch he will be with their positions on the national issues.“

McConnell said he wasn’t sure whether other big-name Republicans will campaign with him this fall. ”Unlike my opponent, I can stand on my own two feet and make my own campaign,“ he said.

But Lunsford told reporters at the 45th annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast at the State Fair that he hopes President Bush comes to Kentucky to campaign for McCon­nell. Lunsford has been trying to tie McConnell to Bush, whose popularity has waned in 2008.

”I think there’s been real negligence on the part of the Bush administration and Mitch McConnell to look at forms of energy,“ Lunsford said to reporters. ”All of a sudden we’re in the middle of a campaign, and they’re like cicadas. We’re getting all this campaign rhetoric, and after the election it will be like a normal situation and it’ll just die away.“

McConnell countered that he could score just as many political points by linking Lunsford to Obama, who trails Republican presidential candidate John McCain by double digits in most Kentucky polls.

”Barack Obama is very unpopular in Kentucky. If he wants to make President Bush the issue, we could make Barack Obama the issue. But the truth of the matter is: Who would be better for Kentucky, Bruce Lunsford or Mitch McConnell?“ he said. ”That’s what this race is about.“

In related news, Lunsford launched his latest commercial, in which he talks directly to the camera and asks Kentucky voters how they’re doing financially in comparison to oil companies and McConnell.

The ad, called ”How are you doing?“ is a variation of Ronald Reagan’s famous line from the 1980 presidential race in which he asked whether Americans felt they were ”better off today than they were four years ago?“

Lunsford also says in the ad that ”after 24 years in the Senate, Mitch McConnell has become a multi-millionaire. Guess who paid for that — you did.“ McConnell’s Senate salary is about $160,000. Most of his assets are in investment funds, and the bulk of his wealth stems from what his wife, Elaine Chao, brought to the marriage.

Lunsford doesn’t mention in the spot that he, too, is a multi-millionaire. He founded nursing home company Vencor, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999 and restructured into two companies. He has since invested in scores of other ventures, including thoroughbred horses and a movie production firm.