By Ronnie Ellis/CNHI News Service
Even as a new poll was released showing Republican Rand Paul’s lead over Democrat Jack Conway in the U.S. Senate race growing, Democrats gathered at state headquarters to urge supporters to win the election with “shoe leather.”
The heavyweights came out for Conway and Democratic incumbent Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler who’s in a tight race with Republican challenger Andy Barr. Gov. Steve Beshear, state Auditor Crit Luallen, and former U.S. Senator and Gov. Wendell Ford urged Democrats to overcome millions of dollars of “outside, anonymous” money poured into the campaign by groups supporting Paul and Barr.
Conway spoke even as The Courier-Journal released a new poll, conducted for the paper and WHAS-TV by SurveyUSA, which showed Paul with a 53-42 lead four days before the election. But he said he’s in a fighting mood and expects to win.
“Heck yeah, I’m fighting,” Conway told the crowd, punching the air with a pointed finger. “I’m fighting for seniors. I’m fighting for students. I’m fighting for veterans. I’m fighting for working families. I’m fighting for people who believe in equality.”
He then reeled off a series of controversial positions Conway says Paul holds: a $2,000 deductible for Medicare; shutting down the U.S. Department of Education which funds grants for college students; questioning the scope of the Americans With Disabilities Act; and a national sales tax. Paul has said all of those things at one time or another but says the statements have been “taken out of context” or “distorted” by Conway’s campaign.
Conway said those issues present a “clear choice” between him and Paul. He said the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee ran a poll last weekend that has Conway leading Paul by two points.
“This race is a dead heat,” Conway told the cheering crowd and said he will win.
Chandler’s contest with Barr has tightened, according to independent polls, though Chandler contends his polling still has him safely ahead and the race is now moving in his direction.
“I’ve seen a lot of movement lately,” Chandler said. “We’re on a roll now. We’re going to win it. We’re going to win it handily.”
He said the No. 1 issue is jobs and there has been job growth in the private sector for nine consecutive months. Chandler said the recession is the result of policies by Republican President George W. Bush, and if Republicans win control of Congress, “They will take us straight back to the Bush policies.”
Beshear said Paul doesn’t understand Kentucky – a Conway campaign theme. He said Paul doesn’t understand “we have a drug problem in Kentucky; who doesn’t understand our seniors don’t have $2,000 lying around.”
Ford, who just turned 86 but said he drove himself to Frankfort from Owensboro, is an icon to the people at the rally. He once held the seat Conway and Paul are seeking, and Conway told the story of a visit to Washington this summer when Ford was described as the “nicest man who ever served in the Senate” by a capitol tour guide.
He reminded the crowd of how many campaigns he’d run and seen, adding this one has candidates swimming “upstream” against “millions and millions of dollars” poured into the race by those supporting Republicans.
“Money does not buy elections,” Ford told the crowd. “Shoe leather buys elections and we’ll win this one with shoe leather.”
Ford called Conway’s opponent “Puzzling Paul.”
“He’s a libertarian, supported by the TEA Party, running on the Republican ticket,” Ford said. “If that’s not puzzling, then what is?”
Luallen and Conway alluded to the incident last Monday night prior at the KET studios in Lexington prior to a debate between Paul and Conway at which a Paul supporter stepped on a MoveOn.org activist who confronted Paul.
Luallen said the incident is a “symbol of the kind of politics we are battling today, the politics of fear, the politics of discriminatory attacks and of holding people down and appealing to what is the worst about us.”
Later Conway said he isn’t sure where former President Bill Clinton will campaign for him on Monday, saying the details are still being worked out.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.