LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- In her strongest comments to date about a potential U.S. Senate race and incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) said Thursday she "won't be bullied into any decision" whether to enter the race.
Disdain for McConnell's performance as U.S. Senator has prompted Grimes to consider entering the race and she is being recruited by both national and local Democrats, she said.
Grimes said she would not make any Senate announcement before the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. She spoke to WHAS11 on the backside of Churchill Downs two days before the horse race.
The first term officeholder shook hands and chatted with television and radio morning shows about the Derby, saying nearly everything a Senate challenger would say, yet is not ready to say she is running.
"Right now, I am weighing that very decision with my husband with my family and with the supporters all across Kentucky that helped me to become Kentucky's Secretary of State and giving it the due diligence it deserves," Grimes said.
Grimes confirmed that former President Bill Clinton, a family friend, encouraged her to enter the race.
Sources close to Grimes say she is doing her homework, evaluating how much would the race cost and gauging if she would have the required support of both Kentucky and national Democrats.
Calling McConnell "the very essence of what's wrong with Washington right now," Grimes stepped up her criticism of the Senate Minority Leader.
"Kentuckians are tired of the obstruction, they are tired of the failed policies and they are looking for new leadership," Grimes said.
For the first time, Grimes commented on the Kentucky Republican Party's criticism that a Senate run would break a promise Grimes gave to the Courier-Journal editorial board while running for Secretary of State in 2011.
"Is she going to keep her oath to her constituents and fulfill the duties of her office," asked Kelsey Cooper, Communications Director for the Republican Party of Kentucky,"or will she abandon it by being the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's 11th pick to challenge Sen. McConnell in 2014?"
"The intentions were genuine and true," Grimes responded. "And since that time, it's been Mitch McConnell who has taken Kentucky and indeed this nation down the wrong path and taken it in the wrong direction for Kentucky and its families and especially women."
Grimes reiterated that the Senate run was not on her radar in 2011, but that she is listening to calls for her to enter the race.
"I've had Democrats, Republicans and Independents from all over this nation and all over Kentucky approach me about the possibility of pursuing a senate run," Grimes said. "Two years ago, that's something I couldn't imagine, that we would be standing here talking about."
"But it's Mitch McConnell's own actions that have brought us to where we are today."
"I won't be bullied into any decision," Grimes continued. "I will tell you that the bully tactics that we see displayed are a continuation of those exemplified in the recording that has surfaced by Mitch McConnell. And this Kentucky woman won't be bullied."
The 2014 Kentucky Senate race, however, is not just about whether to re-elect McConnell. For national Democrats, it's about preventing Republicans from gaining control of the Senate.
Grimes has to determine whether she would get the campaign support she needs to win, or simply enough to prevent McConnell from helping Republican senate candidates in other states.
"For me personally, I enter every race to win," Grimes said. "It's got to be in your gut and you got to want it."
Other top elected Democrats - past and present - have declined to enter the race. Five weeks ago, when actress Ashley Judd announced she would not run, all eyes turned to Grimes.
Thursday's comments mark a change in tone for Grimes, directly challenging McConnell and hinting that her potential campaign would target women.
McConnell is "someone who has been wrong for the middle class families of Kentucky and especially wrong for the women of Kentucky," Grimes said.
Told by a reporter that her comments sounded very much like a candidate's, Grimes responded, "I tell you, Secretary of State is where my focus has been. And I'm going to give this the time that's due and deserved."
"You'll know when I know," Grimes said.