FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Mitt Romney is coming to Kentucky to raise money for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the latest in a string of high-profile politicians getting in on one of the country's most competitive midterm races.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee, won Kentucky with more than 60 percent of the vote. President Barack Obama remains unpopular in Kentucky, and McConnell — who is battling Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the toughest re-election campaign of his 30-year career — has spent millions trying to convince voters Grimes supports Obama's agenda.
"Governor Romney wanted to take the country in a different direction than President Obama in 2012, and Senator McConnell is proud to have his support as Kentuckians are given another opportunity to do that this November," McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said.
Romney will visit Lexington on Oct. 2 for a McConnell fundraiser. Kentucky native and Alliance Resource Partners CEO Joe Craft will co-host the event along with his fiancee, former Bush administration appointee Kelly Knight.
The Lexington Herald-Leader first reported the news.
"I think any imagery that conjures up presidential politics of 2012 is helpful for Republicans," said Scott Lasley, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University.
A spokeswoman for Grimes called Romney a "pioneer of outsourcing" and said it was appropriate for him to campaign with McConnell, calling them a "one-two punch that can only further devastate Kentucky's middle class."
The race is being closely watched nationally as Republicans try to take the Senate during the last two years of Obama's term.
Grimes has distanced herself from Obama while stressing her ties to other prominent Democrats. Former President Bill Clinton, who carried Kentucky twice in presidential elections, has visited the state twice, including speaking to an overflow crowd in Hazard earlier this month. And Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has campaigned for Grimes in Louisville.
Moreover, her campaign announced Tuesday that she had gotten the endorsement of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who stressed that Washington needs more leaders who will work in a bipartisan manner.
"I know that Alison will be one of those leaders," Albright said in a news release.
McConnell also has gotten some high-profile help: In March, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared at a fundraiser for the senator. And former President George H.W. Bush sent a fundraising email to McConnell supporters over the weekend.