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Hillary Clinton campaigns in Kentucky ahead of Tuesday's primary

Published 16/05/2016

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky (AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky (AP)

Hillary Clinton is making a big final push in Kentucky, where rival Bernie Sanders hopes to extend his winning streak and further delay her clinching the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mrs Clinton is touring the state ahead of Tuesday's voting, and on Sunday visited churches and held rallies in Louisville and Fort Mitchell.

Mr Sanders was also visiting Kentucky.

"We need a president who will work every single day to make life better for American families," Mrs Clinton said at a union training centre in Louisville.

"We want somebody who can protect us and work with the rest of the world. Not talk about building walls, but building bridges."

While Mrs Clinton leads Mr Sanders by nearly 300 pledged delegates going into Tuesday's primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, the Vermont senator continues to win contests and has pledged to stay in the race until the July convention.

With Donald Trump set as the presumptive Republican nominee, Mrs Clinton's team would like to turn their attention to the general election contest, but they still cannot fully make that shift.

A win in at least one of the two upcoming contests would give Mrs Clinton momentum heading into the primaries in California and New Jersey in early June.

Oregon is favourable terrain for Mr Sanders, but Mrs Clinton's campaign thinks the race is competitive in Kentucky, where she planned to spend Sunday and Monday courting voters.

"It will be close, but either way, as with all the contests this month, we will gain additional delegates and move that much closer to clinching the nomination," Mrs Clinton's spokesman Brian Fallon said in an email.

Mrs Clinton easily won the Kentucky primary over President Barack Obama in 2008.

But this time she has come under criticism in parts of the state after saying in March that "we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business".

Mrs Clinton later said she misspoke, but the comment has drawn fire in mining communities.

On Sunday in Louisville and Fort Mitchell, Mrs Clinton touted her plan for coal country.

Her proposals include protecting miners' healthcare coverage and retirement programmes, investing in infrastructure in mining communities and repurposing mines.

Before a cheering crowd in a Fort Mitchell backyard, Mrs Clinton pledged to put husband Bill - who won the state in 1992 and 1996 -"in charge of revitalising the economy".

She provided no further details, but during Mr Clinton's administration, economic growth averaged 4% per year, median family income rose and the budget deficit was turned into a surplus.

Mrs Clinton said that when people feel left behind, they "become very interested in easy answers and the kind of demagoguery we've seen in this election".

Mrs Clinton only briefly mentioned Mr Sanders at both events, repeating a critique that he did not vote to fund the car industry bailout. Mr Sanders has accused Mrs Clinton of mischaracterising his record on the issue.

Mrs Clinton focused most of her fire on Mr Trump, calling him a "loose cannon".

She said his record will "be a big part of the general election, because Americans, regardless of our political affiliation, have to really take this vote seriously".

Going into Tuesday, Mrs Clinton has 1,716 pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses, compared with 1,433 for Mr Sanders. Adding in superdelegates, or party officials who can back any candidate, Mrs Clinton holds a much wider lead.

She remains on track to reach the 2,383 needed to win the nomination by early next month.

Mrs Clinton and her supporters have avoided calling on Mr Sanders to drop out of the race. But they worry that Mr Sanders could damage her chances by staying put.

The Vermont senator's economic hits on Mrs Clinton could benefit Mr Trump, as he seeks to appeal to independent voters.

In addition, Mrs Clinton cannot start wooing Mr Sanders' supporters until he is out of the way and she must continue campaigning in primary states, rather than general election battlegrounds.

A Trump adviser told CNN's State Of The Union on Sunday that the campaign was hoping to appeal to Sanders supporters in the general election.

"You see Democrat support for Bernie Sanders that is potential Trump support, when it's indicated that they will never vote for Hillary Clinton, and when you analyse who those people are that are saying it, they're the very demographic that Trump is appealing to in independents and crossover Democrats," Paul Manafort said.

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