By Howard Fineman for Huffington Post – WASHINGTON — Alison Lundergan Grimes stumbled out of the gate in Kentucky earlier this month when she announced that she would run against five-term incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell in next years Senate race. The 34-year-old Democratic secretary of state has the right blood lines: She’s the daughter of the former Democratic Party state chairman. But though she is well-schooled in the basics — firm handshake, straight-ahead manner and careful talking points — Grimes launched her campaign without a website, position papers, staff or much of anything else. Team Mitch unloaded with derision and precision, posting an online video portraying Grimes as Barack Obamas dancing partner the president isn’t popular in Kentucky and a tree-hugging foe of the states powerful coal industry.
But a Senate race is a long-distance affair, especially in Kentucky, where polls show that McConnell, the Senate minority leader, is weak, at a time when voters everywhere despise Congress and Washington. And now in the second furlong, evidence is beginning to emerge that Grimes may turn into a surprisingly formidable foe for a man who is more than twice her age.In her first major appearance before national party leaders, Saturday on Martha’s Vineyard, Grimes wowed Democratic senators, Senate candidates and donors alike at the party’s annual private summer fundraising retreat. Each year the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee invites top donors to schmooze with senators, especially those up for reelection, and inspect the merchandise of challengers who will take on Republican incumbents.