Bill Clinton rallies Democrats for Grimes; warns Kentuckians against making protest vote

Former President Bill Clinton spoke Tuesday at a rally for Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Owensboro.
Former President Bill Clinton spoke Tuesday at a rally for Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Owensboro. Associated Press

OWENSBORO — Former President Bill Clinton and about 3,000 Western Kentucky Democrats rallied Tuesday to help get Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes over the finish line.

With both Grimes and Clinton using horse-racing metaphors to excite the crowd, Grimes said she was a "Kentucky filly" whom Democrats were wise to bet on, and Clinton said he feels like "an old racehorse" every time an election comes around.

"They got me in a nice barn, and it's election season; they come in and give me an extra bale of hay," Clinton said to laughs. "Somebody comes in and brushes my coat, then they drag me out to the track and they slap me on the rear to see if I can get around that track just one more time.

"I'm running around this track for Alison because I know she'd be the best for you," Clinton said.

Grimes kicked off the extended metaphor by saying, "You made the right bet on this Kentucky filly."

"We are coming down the home stretch, and we are nose to nose and Mitch McConnell keeps trying to take my garland of roses," Grimes said. "Y'all aren't going to let him, are you?"

She added that if voters turn out for her on Election Day, she will be standing in the "winner's circle and we'll put Mitch McConnell out to pasture."

It wasn't all horse talk though, as Clinton unleashed a blistering attack on McConnell.

Clinton teed off on a secret recording reported this summer that showed McConnell speaking at a retreat hosted by conservative billionaires Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch. He read aloud quotes that McConnell said, including McConnell's opposition to debating "gosh darn proposals" like raising the minimum wage and his description of the day that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill passed as the worst day "of my political life."

Clinton ticked off a number of tragic events and asked: "How could that be the worst day of your life even if you thought it was a bad idea?"

The former president also repeatedly harped on the idea that Kentuckians should not vote for McConnell just because they are angry with President Barack Obama.

"Who ever heard of giving somebody a six-year job for a two-year protest?" Clinton asked.

Grimes leveled several familiar criticisms of McConnell, including comments about the wealth of McConnell and his wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, and money she has received for serving on corporate and philanthropic boards that have sometimes taken actions to hamper the coal industry.

Fact-checkers have labeled those claims false, noting that most of McConnell's wealth comes from an inheritance received by his wife after the death of her mother.

Grimes also showed no signs of altering her push for a raise in the minimum wage after a report Monday by CNN that some workers at Hugh Jass Burgers, a Lexington restaurant owned by members of Grimes' family, are paid $2.13 an hour, the minimum wage for tipped employees.

In addition, Grimes continued to attempt to put distance between herself and Obama, repeating that "Barack Obama is not on the ballot."

"I am a Clinton Democrat, and that's the kind of senator I will be, Kentucky," she said.

Grimes said she spoke with Clinton early in the race and he said he had "two hopes."

"One was to be a grandfather," Grimes said. "I told him I couldn't do anything about that. The second was to get rid of Mitch McConnell. So, Kentucky, are we ready to say farewell to Mitch McConnell?"

With just two weeks until Election Day, Grimes said she has "given every ounce of energy that I have over the past two years because we deserve better."

Clinton was scheduled to join Grimes at another rally Tuesday night in Paducah, bringing the total number of events he has held for Grimes to five, not including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Louisville last week.

"I do believe that he has been here more this year that Mitch McConnell has been," Grimes said.

Allison Moore, McConnell's spokeswoman, said in a statement after the event that Grimes continues to rely on "false attacks and baseless claims."

"It's a good thing there are only two weeks left until the election, because Alison Lundergan Grimes' blunder of a campaign has finally hit rock bottom," Moore said.

McConnell was in Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday, the second day of a three-day bus tour through the region.

Grimes and other speakers at the Clinton event poked fun at McConnell after The Hill reported Monday that the Republican Party of Kentucky had offered to pay for travel, meals and lodging of supporters who would "contribute to an enthusiastic atmosphere" at stops on McConnell's bus tour.