- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

MADISDONVILLE, Ky. (AP) - As the daughter, granddaughter and mother of coal miners, Kathy Bartlett did not hesitate when Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell motioned for her to approach the Ford Thunderbird he was riding in the annual Madisonville Veterans Day Parade.

“My sons work underground. Third shift,” a smiling Bartlett said after she had her photo taken with the Senate Republican leader. McConnell “has always supported coal. He’s for the working class.”

Less than 100 feet behind McConnell, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes and about two dozen of her supporters - including a contingent from the United Mineworkers of America - chanted in the 30-year incumbents ear: “Hey hey! ho ho! Mitch McConnell has got to go!”

“She’s more interested in coal mining than Obama thought about being,” retired coal miner John Hancock said. “She’s a good Kentucky girl. She knows what coal mining is about.”

The parade in western Kentucky’s coal country was one of the few times the candidates have been spotted together in the course of their closely-watched campaign. And it came just two days before an election that could make McConnell the Senate majority leader or propel Grimes into political superstardom for knocking off the Senate Republican leader.

A new NBC/Marist poll on Sunday showed Grimes has a lot of work to do by Tuesday. McConnell had the support of 50 percent of likely voters, while Grimes had 41 percent. Libertarian candidate David Patterson had 5 percent, with 3 percent undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.2 percent.

“We expect to win,” McConnell told reporters following the parade. “This election is largely a referendum on the president of the United States. Most people in my state and I hope around the country believe we need to go in a different direction.”

While McConnell rode, Grimes walked the parade route, wading into the crowd to shake hands, give high-fives and hugging supporters.

“I’m excited about the energy and momentum that we see,” she said. “He’s been there 30 years and Kentuckians are no better off. We don’t have an increase in the minimum wage, we don’t have the jobs we need here in this state. We haven’t closed the gender pay gap. That’s what this fight is all about.”

Most along the parade route greeted both candidates with polite waves and applause. Sandra Hall, 59, pointed out McConnell to her 4-year-old granddaughter.

“The man who calls on the telephone? That’s who they are,” she explained as her granddaughter scooped up some candy from volunteers.

Hall said she couldn’t say for sure who she would vote for on Tuesday, but said it would likely be McConnell.

“I don’t know a lot about” Grimes, she said. McConnell “has been in that position a long time and he’s not done anything that bothers me.”

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