Grimes, McConnell make final campaign stops, each confident of victory

On the eve of the election, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes arrived in Bowling Green on Monday for a rally with supporters at the United Auto Workers hall.
On the eve of the election, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes arrived in Bowling Green on Monday for a rally with supporters at the United Auto Workers hall. Associated Press

With the clock ticking down toward Tuesday's election, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes on Monday night promised a "photo finish," while U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told crowds earlier in the day that "victory is in the air."

As about 200 supporters cheered, Grimes finished her sprint to the finish with a rally in downtown Lexington, telling her people that the polls and pundits that have her losing are going to be surprised Tuesday night.

"This is where we wanted to end tonight because Fayette County will bring us across the finish line," Grimes said.

McConnell and his staff were confident they were sitting on the verge of not just a win in Kentucky, but in Senate races around the country that could make McConnell the leader of a new Republican majority.

"Victory is in the air," McConnell said earlier Monday at Lexington's airport as he prepared to leave for several other campaign stops. "We're going to bring it home tomorrow night."

Joined by his wife, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, McConnell flew around the state Monday, continuing his criticisms of President Barack Obama and saying that "starting tomorrow night, we're going to stop them."

Grimes, who was joined down the stretch by Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, said Kentucky was "less than 24 hours away from sending our first female to Washington, D.C."

As supporters slowly gathered at the Fifth Third Bank Pavilion to wait for Grimes, family members and staff shared high fives and hugs as their 16-month quest to try to deny McConnell a sixth term came to an end.

With Paul by his side, McConnell talked about what it would mean for Kentucky to have him as the majority leader of a new Senate, adding that "we have not had in our history, in my view, a better, more powerful combination of senators than we have right now."

Paul, who is openly considering a 2016 presidential run, introduced McConnell as "my friend." He joined McCon nell in criticizing Obama, as well as former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both of whom campaigned repeatedly for Grimes.

"This election will be a repudiation of the president's polices," Paul said. "We're going to send him a message tomorrow."

Beshear, introducing Grimes in Lexington, said McConnell and Paul were like "Tweedledum and Tweedledum."

Stumbo told the crowd to "raise hell" Tuesday, and Beshear implored people to vote and take others with them to their voting precincts.

"Polls don't vote," Beshear said. "People vote. If we turn the people out, we're going to win this race.

Stumbo went even further, saying "tomorrow is gonna be a great day" and telling the crowd that "Kentucky is set to make history."

"She's going to win," he said. "She's going to win big."

But the final round of polls show McConnell with a healthy lead, and he told reporters that "polling down here is indicating that's likely to happen, and we're trying to make sure everybody votes."

With the GOP seemingly on the cusp of retaking control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since the 2006 elections, "We intend to be a responsible governing Republican majority if the American people give us a chance to do that," McConnell said.

In a brief interview with the Herald-Leader after the airport event, Paul was asked why he thought McConnell had been able to build a lead despite having anemic personal popularity numbers throughout the campaign.

"I think it takes a while for people to coalesce," Paul said. "And I think really what you've seen in the last month is Republicans have all come together and said, 'you know what, there's a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, and we can't send another vote up there for Harry Reid. I mean it is about that."

When asked how much of a role he had played in that coalescing, Paul answered modestly, attributing it to a combination of factors .

"If I was some influence on that, then I'm glad to help," he said.

Kentucky's junior senator predicted McConnell would win Tuesday "with a pretty good mandate."

But Grimes told her supporters that if they got out the vote, Tuesday night would turn into "the biggest retirement party Mitch McConnell has ever seen."

"I have had your back," she said. "Will you have mine tomorrow?"

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