OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — Bill Clinton said he knows many Kentucky voters are angry at President Barack Obama, but he urged them Tuesday not to take it out on Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in her bid to unseat a 30-year Senate incumbent.
The former president campaigned for Grimes for the third time this year in Kentucky, addressing a rally in Owensboro that drew more than 3,000 people as she campaigns against Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Clinton is a top Democratic surrogate this year as the party seeks to retain control of the Senate with Kentucky's one of the nation's most closely watched races.
McConnell and his allies have run millions of dollars' worth of TV ads depicting Grimes — Kentucky's Secretary of State — as an Obama supporter. The ads have included highlighting her refusal to say whether she voted for Obama in 2012 despite being a delegate for him at the Democratic National Convention.
"Only in politics will people tell you you ought to run this country by listening to me make you just as mad as you can because you cannot think to save your life. That is a bad way to make decisions, and that's what (McConnell) wants you to do," Clinton said. "When somebody tries to sell me something, and their strategy is to stop me from thinking, normally they don't' have my best interests at heart."
Clinton then launched into the reasons he said voters should choose Grimes, including her support for raising the minimum wage and easing the country's student loan debt.
"Make sure nobody casts a protest vote," Clinton said in an allusion to Obama during his appearance in western Kentucky. "Whoever heard of somebody giving a six-year job for a two-year protest?"
The latest visit by Bill Clinton came just a week after Hillary Clinton spoke at a Grimes event in Louisville. Grimes has tried to use her association with the Clintons to distance herself from Obama.
Obama remains unpopular in Kentucky largely for his energy policies, which state officials say will make it impossible to replace their aging fleet of coal-fired power plants responsible for generating much of their electricity. But Clinton, who won Kentucky twice as a presidential candidate, remains popular in the state.
Shaun Owens, a 51-year-old nurse from Owensboro, wore two buttons to Tuesday's rally: the first referring to Hillary Clinton as "Madam President" and the second depicting Bill Clinton playing the saxophone in sunglasses beneath the phrase "Bill Still Rocks."
But Owens said she came to see Grimes, not Clinton, adding she would have shown up regardless of the former president attending or not.
"Kentucky needs to send a woman to the Senate," she said. "I like her. She's strong, and she's for Democratic principles."
McConnell has focused his campaign on connecting Grimes to Democratic principles, mostly by saying Grimes would support Obama's agenda. But with most public polls showing a close race, McConnell's campaign launched a new TV ad Tuesday courting Democratic voters. The 30-second spot features several people who identify themselves as lifelong Democrats but who say they support McConnell for re-election.
"When I look at Senator McConnell, I see he shares my values," Chris Sexton, a former coal miner in Blackey, says in the ad.
McConnell campaigned in eastern Kentucky on Tuesday, the second day of a three-day bus tour. Grimes is planning to launch a "Kentucky vs. Washington" three-day bus tour on Wednesday.