Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never mentioned Mitch McConnell by name, but it’s unlikely that any of the 1,200 Democrats who turned out to hear her Saturday at Transylvania University didn’t know who she was talking about.
Clinton, making her second visit to Kentucky for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, joined other elected Kentucky Democrats in trying to excite and turn out voters with just 72 hours until the polls open.
Referring repeatedly to “Alison’s opponent,” Clinton implored the afternoon crowd not to “wake up the day after the election wishing you had done just a little bit more.”
“Get out there in the next three days, and make sure you send Alison Lundergan Grimes to Washington,” she said.
Clinton, who has traveled extensively campaigning for Democrats as they hustle to hold off what increasingly looks like a coming Republican majority in the Senate, told the crowd that she was back in the Bluegrass State to “help build momentum for the last three days.”
“There is no place with more enthusiasm than Kentucky for Alison,” Clinton said.
To be sure, the crowd was “fired up and ready to go,” as State Auditor Adam Edelen said in warming up the audience and channeling President Barack Obama’s 2008 rally cry.
Grimes, who is Kentucky’s secretary of state, will need every bit of that enthusiasm on Tuesday to have a chance at pulling the upset of the political cycle.
A Bluegrass Poll released Thursday showed McConnell, the U.S. Senate minority leader, leading 48 percent to 43 percent among likely Kentucky voters.
The Grimes campaign got more bad news Saturday when highly regarded national political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, author of the Rothenberg Political Report, changed his rating for the race, saying that Grimes’ “prospects are now so poor that we are moving the race from Lean Republican to Republican favored.”
“One of the most watched Senate races of 2014 is over,” Rothenberg wrote. “Take it off your list of states that could fall either way on Tuesday.”
The crowd at Transy was undaunted, though, as a parade of Democratic officials warmed up the crowd and Grimes told them that McConnell is “desperate.”
“He’s scared,” Grimes said. “You’ve seen it. The wind is at our back.”
Gov. Steve Beshear called Clinton “the next president of the United States of America” and asked if the crowd was “proud that Kentucky is leading the nation in health care reform.”
Clinton returned the favor, following former President Bill Clinton’s lead and heaping praise on Beshear for his decision to implement a statewide version of “Obamacare” and calling him “a model of common-sense government.”
“Tuesday is your chance to reject the guardians of gridlock, to say yes to government like what the governor has led that actually delivers results for people,” Clinton said.
Clinton attended two events for Grimes on Saturday, the first in Northern Kentucky, for a total of three events this election cycle.
“I’m not saying the Clintons have been here too much, but Secretary Clinton did leave some dry-cleaning when she was here on the 15th (of October) and said I’ll be there to pick it up on Saturday,” Grimes said. “She has now officially seen more voters in Kentucky than Mitch McConnell has in all 30 years.”
Clinton lauded Grimes as a “fresh voice” and dismissed McConnell’s strategy of running against President Barack Obama.
“If Alison’s opponent wanted to run against the president, he had his chance in 2012,” Clinton said.
McConnell, who jokes frequently about the Clintons bringing him good luck by pointing to his wins in past elections when they have campaigned for his opponents, was asked about their significant involvement in this race.
“I don’t think it’s personal,” McConnell said after an event in Lexington Friday. “It’s just business. This is the Clintons’ business. The president’s so unpopular that the only person they can send out that everybody’s heard of is President Clinton.”
When asked if he could work with Clinton if she runs for and wins the presidency in 2016, McConnell laughed.
“I’m hoping that doesn’t happen,” McConnell said.
Kelsey Cooper, spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said in a statement that Grimes “likes to compare herself to a race horse in her stump speech, but with multiple visits from the Clintons in the final days of her campaign, she might want to consider calling herself a one-trick pony instead.”
As the campaign moves into its final hours, the speakers Saturday, including Clinton, implored the crowd to sign up as volunteers to help get out the vote on Tuesday.
Grimes pleaded with them to work a little harder the next three days.
“It rests in your hands, on your shoulders,” Grimes said. “No pressure, but it’s on your shoulders. My name is on the ballot, but your backs have to be in this with me. Do you have my back?”
Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.