FLORENCE, Ky. — After years of being a political punching bag in Kentucky, President Barack Obama has gotten favorable reviews from several Democrats running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Rand Paul.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, the front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination, said at a candidates’ forum Monday evening that Obama “deserves more credit than he gets for what he’s achieved.” Another Democratic candidate, Tom Recktenwald, said terror leader Osama bin Laden was killed during Obama’s presidency and the stock market has rebounded.

For several elections, Kentucky Republicans have made inroads while tying Democratic candidates to Obama, especially for his push for stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

In a later question about energy policy, Gray said the state’s coal sector is struggling due to regulations and market trends.