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Both Kentucky Senate candidates are confident

With more than $25 million worth of advertising etched into their minds, the commonwealth's voters decide Tuesday the fate of Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.

Both Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the GOP's leader in the U.S. Senate, and his Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford expressed confidence Monday as they made final stops in each of the major Kentucky cities.

"We're heading toward a victory," McConnell said in a cramped conference room with about 20 supporters at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport Monday morning. "Clearly what's happening here is we're taking off as we go toward the finish line."

McConnell said he has the momentum heading into Tuesday's election after snaring 10 of 12 Kentucky newspaper endorsements and seeing a slight bounce in polls that came out the last few days.

McConnell built his campaign on the clout he holds as a four-term senator and as the Republican Senate leader, which he says enables him to secure more federal grants and resources for Kentucky.

Lunsford has tried to combat that message by noting that he would probably be a member of the majority party and would have the ear of Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid.

"I'm going to be able to walk into the leader's office any time I want because he asked me, as several others did, to run in this race," Lunsford told reporters in Lexington Monday. "I'll be able to walk in any time I want and say, 'These are my priorities. Here's what the people of Kentucky tell me are priorities.'"

Lunsford was joined outside the Fayette County Democratic Party headquarters on South Broadway for a rally by former governors John Y. Brown Jr. and Julian Carroll — who have been mainstays on the campaign trail for Lunsford — as well as Richard Trumka, the secretary-treasurer of the national AFL-CIO.

"This election for senator can actually be what breaks the logjam in Washington, D.C.," Trumka told about 100 activists in the party headquarters' parking lot. "It's really not the clout you have, it's how you use the clout that you have."

Lunsford said voters are anxious and frustrated at the direction of the country, particularly the economy, and are likely to take that out against McConnell even if they vote for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

"I think it's going to be history making tomorrow. I'm excited to watch people speak," he said. "This is real simple: They care about their jobs because they think they're going to lose them. They care about their health care. They care about their retirement plans because they've watched them plummet. And most of all, they care about their country."

This has been an election season in the Bluegrass State like few before.

With a historic, competitive and attention-grabbing presidential election as a backdrop, Kentuckians are being asked to rehire or fire a sitting party leader in the Senate for the first time since 1944, when Sen. Alben Barkley was the Democrats' Senate leader.

The presidential election between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, which polls show McCain leading by double digits in Kentucky, has been low-key in the state, as opposed to other nearby swing states such as Virginia, Ohio and Missouri.

Still, McConnell said on Saturday that the presidential race will no doubt increase turnout in Kentucky.

"I'm glad that Sen. McCain is going to carry the state. I think it's generally helpful," he said.

Monday, he added that interest in his race against Lunsford is also running high.

"I went to Kroger yesterday morning — I'm the shopper in this family — and everybody wanted to stop and talk," he said. "So clearly it's on everybody's mind. It's a big election; some would argue the biggest Senate election in the country."

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