Commentary: Bill Clinton's Kentucky visit is a wasted opportunity

With all of Kentucky available, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway picked Lexington to host a Monday rally with Bill Clinton, former White House occupant and current most popular political figure in all the land.



What good can Clinton do Conway in Lexington?

Lexington is the heart of one of the two Kentucky districts represented by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. President Barack Obama won Fayette County in 2008 while getting blitzed by John McCain throughout much of the rest of Kentucky. Although it's non-partisan in nature, both candidates in Lexington's mayoral race have Democratic backgrounds.

Outside of Louisville, Lexington arguably is the safest haven in the state for Conway in his race with Republican/Libertarian/Tea Partier Rand Paul because the Democratic Party faithful in Lexington tend to remain reasonably faithful.

That's more than you can say for Democrats out on the plowed ground of Western Kentucky or in the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky. They're prone to sneaking in a few voting-booth trysts with Republican candidates, particularly in elections with a national flavor.

Exhibits A and B are the Republican House members they keep sending back to Washington even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in their districts. Exhibit C is Republican Sen. Jim Bunning's narrow re-election victory in 2004, a victory he snatched from the jaws of defeat with the help of votes from Western Kentucky Democrats.

Lexington Democrats who vote for Conway probably would vote for Conway — with or without a drop-in visit by a moderate former Democratic president. But many Democrats in the eastern and western extremes of the state need a reason to remain true to the party. Clinton, who is popular in both regions, could provide that reason — but not at a Lexington rally.

Move the rally to Owensboro. Add Wendell Ford, the former governor and U.S. senator who's a Western Kentucky Democratic legend, to the program. The rally would get media coverage in Owensboro, Paducah, Bowling Green and the region's other media markets — and several members of the Golden Triangle media would show up as well.

To read the complete column, visit www.kentucky.com.