Whitesburg KY

Bill Clinton to visit Pikeville

Former President Bill Clinton will be in Pikeville tomorrow (Thursday) to promote his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for president. The visit comes two days after Clinton daughter Chelsea visited Lexington and Louisville.

Bill Clinton is expected to speak at Pike County Central High School in Pikeville around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The Pikeville stop is the latest sign that the Clintons are devoting plenty of attention to the Bluegrass state – from the mountainous east to the agricultural west in advance of Kentucky’s May 20 primary.

The New York senator campaigned in Louisville and Madisonville on March 29, while the former president made stops in central and northeastern Kentucky on March 25.

With its late primary, Kentucky is usually not a factor in the presidential primary season. But with Clinton and Barack Obama locked in a tight race for the Democratic nod, the state is poised to play a meaningful role.

Longtime Democratic political strategist Terry McBrayer, a superdelegate who backs Clinton, said the Clinton campaign is sending a clear message with its early attention on the state.

“They think they can lock Kentucky up early,” he said in a telephone interview Monday.

Bill Clinton carried Kentucky twice in winning the presidency in 1992 and 1996, and McBrayer said he thinks Hillary Clinton has the upper hand leading up to the May primary.

“Obama is going to do better in the urban areas, and she’s going to do better outside Louisville,” he said, adding that Clinton will “hold her own” in Kentucky’s largest city.

Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University, said the Clinton visits are meant as a “deterrent” to Obama.

“The strategy is to try to tell Obama, ‘Don’t waste your time, you don’t have a shot here,'” he said.

Gershtenson agreed that Clinton appears to have an advantage over Obama in Kentucky, which has a large bluecollar work force along with a smaller black population than in the Deep South. But if Clinton stumbles in upcoming primaries in Pennsylvania and Indiana, the momentum could give Obama a surge in Kentucky, he said.

The Obama campaign opened a campaign office in Louisville on March 29, and the Illinois senator previously won a key endorsement from U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, who represents the state’s largest city. Obama’s campaign plans to open offices throughout the state in the runup to the primary.

Obama’s state campaign director, Carolyn Tandy, said Monday the state is “up for grabs,” and said Obama is conceding nothing to his rival. The Obama campaign is putting together a strong grass-roots effort, she said.

“This is really about being able to go out and tell people what the senator stands for,” she said by phone. “And it hasn’t been a hard sell at all. We’ve had lots of people coming to us.”

As for whether Obama will campaign in Kentucky before the primary, Tandy noted that the senator and his wife have visited the Bluegrass state in the past.

“If they were willing to do that when there was no race, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do that when there is one,” she said.

Kentucky and Oregon have primaries the same day.

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