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With Bill Alongside, Grimes Calls Herself a "Clinton Democrat"

With Bill Alongside, Grimes Calls Herself a "Clinton Democrat"

By Scott Conroy - August 6, 2014

Alison Lundergan Grimes may be doing everything she can to distance herself from President Obama, but the Kentucky Democrat is more than happy to associate with one former commander-in-chief.  

For the second time this year, Bill Clinton joined Grimes on the campaign trail and shared the stage with her during two appearances Wednesday in Kentucky: a morning fundraiser in Lexington and an afternoon rally in the hardscrabble coal-mining town of Hazard.  

Locked in a closely contested and expensive battle with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a state that Clinton carried twice, Grimes sought to present herself as a fighter and an independent voice for Kentucky. 

“Let me just set the record straight. I am not an empty dress, I am not a cheerleader, and I am not a rubber stamp,” she said at the Lexington stop with the still popular former president at her side, according to Kentucky radio station WFPL. “One label, though, I will proudly wear is that of a Clinton Democrat. I am a Clinton Democrat.” 

Clinton previously appeared with Grimes, who currently serves as Kentucky’s secretary of state, at a February fundraiser in Louisville, which netted over $600,000 for her campaign.  

Grimes, 35, has proven herself a prolific fundraiser, bringing in more than $4 million during this year’s second quarter -- more than any other Senate candidate in the country raised during the same period and a record in the Bluegrass State. 

But McConnell, who has spent nearly three decades in office, has time and again shown himself to be politically resilient and continues to enjoy a cash-on-hand advantage over his opponent.

The Republican incumbent currently has a small but significant 2.5 percentage-point lead, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls, in a state that tends to vote heavily Republican in federal races.

Grimes’ best hope of pulling off an upset is to tap into widespread ire over economic stagnation in Kentucky and a voter mood that may be conducive to changing the status quo and electing a new generation of leaders. 

As such, she has stuck heavily to a populist message that includes equal pay for women and a call to raise the minimum wage -- an agenda Clinton sought to highlight during his remarks in Lexington.  

"If you want more jobs and higher income, you have one choice: Alison Lundergan Grimes," Clinton said, according to the Lexington-Herald Leader.

The McConnell camp, meanwhile, has worked relentlessly to erode Grimes’ relative advantage in eastern Kentucky coal country by trying to tie the Democrat to the Obama administration and its push for tighter EPA regulations. (A Bluegrass Poll released in May showed that Obama had a favorability rating of just 29 percent in the state.) 

"It must not have occurred to Alison Lundergan Grimes that after Barack Obama declared the war on coal, he named the building tasked with executing his mission after the man she's bringing to Eastern Kentucky,” McConnell spokesperson Allison Moore said in a statement, referring to the William Jefferson Clinton Building at EPA headquarters. “Evidently she doesn't think Eastern Kentuckians can execute a basic Google search to reveal that Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and now Alison Lundergan Grimes have every intention of continuing to attack their way of life.” 

McConnell is set to kick off his own swing through that region of the state when he launches a two-day bus tour on Thursday with longtime GOP Rep. Hal Rogers. 

Though both Grimes and McConnell appeared on the same stage at last weekend’s Fancy Farm event -- an annual western Kentucky confab for politicking -- the two candidates in the nation’s marquee Senate race this year have yet to agree on parameters for a formal debate.

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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