- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - It may be 2014, but Mitch McConnell wants to party like it’s 2012.

The five-term Republican senator held a private fundraiser at Donamire Farm in Lexington on Thursday night featuring 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. While Obama won re-election in 2012, there was no doubt whom Kentucky voters supported: Romney carried the state with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Since then, Obama’s disapproval ratings in Kentucky have remained above 60 percent, giving Republican candidates an obvious strategy when running against Democrats in general elections. McConnell has largely followed that script, running TV ads pointing out that his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, was an Obama delegate at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and ending with the slogan “Obama needs Grimes. Kentucky needs Mitch McConnell.”

On Thursday, Obama gave Republicans candidates a gift when he said in a speech at Northwestern University that he was not on the ballot this year, but his policies are.

“I couldn’t agree more,” McConnell told reporters with Romney at his side Thursday night. “This race here in Kentucky and the races across the country are about Barack Obama’s agenda.”

Grimes has pushed back against those attacks, pointing out she disagrees with the president on his energy policies and some of his gun-control proposals. And she has brought former Democratic President Bill Clinton to Kentucky twice to campaign for her. Clinton, like Romney, won Kentucky when running for president. And Wednesday, the Grimes campaign began airing a statewide TV ad featuring Clinton urging Kentucky voters to send Grimes to the U.S. Senate.

Asked at an event in Lexington earlier in the day if she regretted being a delegate for Obama in 2012, Grimes said her record as a Clinton Democrat “speaks for itself.” And she did not welcome Obama’s 2012 opponent to Lexington.

“I find it ironic that Mitch McConnell, who thinks 76 cents on every dollar is acceptable for a woman, would welcome a man here to Kentucky who thinks 47 percent of the population doesn’t matter,” Grimes said, a reference to Romney’s “47 percent” comment in 2012 that turned into a firestorm for his campaign.

Speaking with reporters after the fundraiser, Romney praised McConnell and said his re-election would be good for the country and good for America because it could lead to McConnell becoming the majority leader if Republicans take control of the Senate.

“When there is a Republican Senate and Mitch McConnell is the leader, you’re going to see pieces of legislation the American people want to see passed,” Romney said.

But Romney appears to break with McConnell in one policy area: the minimum wage. In March, Romney said he thought lawmakers should raise the federal minimum wage because he said the Republican party is about jobs and better pay. Grimes has made raising the minimum wage a key part of her campaign, and criticized McConnell for telling an audience at a private event fundraiser earlier this year that the Senate would not vote on a minimum-wage increase.

McConnell has opposed a minimum-wage increase because he said it would lead to employers cutting jobs. Thursday, McConnell said he would favor raising the minimum wage if the economy were stronger. Asked if he supported McConnell’s stance on the minimum wage, Romney said he supports McConnell.

“I’m not going to get into the details of all the policy,” Romney said. “You’ve just listened to the minority leader who I hope soon becomes the majority leader explain the conditions under which he would support a minimum-wage increase. He’s the guy running for office and I surely support him.”



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