By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Kentucky Democrats gather in Lexington today to get pumped for the November elections.
Several hundred party members are attending the state convention, where they will tout Democratic chances for winning back a majority in the Kentucky Senate and maintaining one in the House.
John Kerry will be lauded as the man to beat George W. Bush. And 4th District Congressional candidate Nick Clooney, U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Mongiardo and others will give speeches to inspire the faithful.
Clooney's message is likely to be "that he's a common-sense Kentuckian. He's not left. He's not right. He's what the party looks like," says Nathan Smith, Democratic Party chairman in Kenton County.
Clooney is running against Republican Geoff Davis for the seat being vacated by Democrat Ken Lucas. Mongiardo faces Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning.
Kentucky Republicans held their state convention in Northern Kentucky two weeks ago.
Besides bringing party members together for cheerleading, the conventions are an integral part of the presidential selection process.
Today, Democrats will choose delegates to attend their national convention, where Kerry will be the presumptive nominee.
Bush handily won Kentucky in 2000. The state often predicts winners; not since 1964 has it voted for a losing presidential candidate.
This time around, Bush's chances for winning Kentucky will depend in part on the transition to Iraqi self-governance, Smith says.
"If it doesn't go well, I think a lot of people are going to say, 'What in the world have you gotten us into?' " he says.
In addition to Iraq, this weekend's convention is likely to address affordable health insurance, the uneven economic recovery and Democratic family values.
"The Democratic Party has members who are Christian. It has members who are pro-life. It has members supportive of these values that Republicans have tried to claim as their own," says Eric Gentry, a Democratic consultant based in Edgewood.
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