Who are you most likely to vote for?
LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- In his first appearance back home since Alison Lundergan Grimes announced her bid to unseat him, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) painted the Democratic challenger as a "rookie" who would tow the line of national Democrats.
"I think all of you know I love a good campaign," McConnell told reporters after a groundbreaking for the final phase of the 21st Century Parks project. "And I think we'll have one that will provide plenty of opportunities for you all over the next year and a half."
Asked about polls that show him vulnerable in the 2014 race, McConnell predicted Grimes' vulnerabilities will frame the campaign.
"There will be two issues in this race," McConnell said. "One of them is issues themselves. My opponent, of course, will support the agenda of Barack Obama and Harry Reid. She may try to claim otherwise during the campaign but we all know how that works. She'll be on board with the effort to implement Obamacare and the War on Coal."
At her announcement on Monday, Grimes did not directly address a question regarding McConnell's fight against the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."
"Well, I will tell you that regardless of the vote that is issued in this race, we cannot change who our president is," Grimes responded.
"Number two, is the issue of influence," McConnell continued. "On the influence side, Kentucky would lose dramatically by trading in the leader of one of the two parties in the Senate for a rookie."
"Do we really want to lose the influence that's been acquired over the years?" McConnell asked. "I don't think Kentuckians want to go back to the back bench when they have a seat on the front bench."
McConnell, 71, partially deflected a question regarding the demographic contrast between him and Grimes, 34, only addressing their age difference yet not Grimes' focus on women's issues.
"Well, as Ronald Reagan famously said once, 'I won't use my opponents age and inexperience as an issue in this campaign,'" McConnell said.
At the Jefferson County Democratic Party's Wendell Ford Dinner in June, Grimes called for "a senator, that unlike ours, doesn't go to D-C and vote against the Violence Against Women Act, doesn't vote against the Lilly Ledbetter Paycheck Fairness Act."
Another contrast is McConnell today with the McConnell of 2008, who campaigned on his ability to score big federal bucks for Kentucky.
"The guy you're looking at, your senator, the Republican leader of the senate, brought home to the commonwealth last year $500 million," McConnell said at a 2008 campaign appearance.
It was a different era eight years ago when McConnell slipped in a $38 million earmark for the 21st Century Parks project, which broke ground on its final phase today.
"Sen. McConnell is an environmental hero," said the project's treasurer, David Jones, Sr.
But the tea party revolution of 2010 demanded a stop to such earmarks.
"Back in 2005, we were in a very good position to fund this project," McConnell said on Wednesday when asked about the earmark. "It's an extremely significant project for the future of this community. I was glad to play a small role in it. What's really unique about this project is that most of the funding came from private individuals who contributed to Mr. Jones' efforts to fund this project for the future, basically a gift to the city."
While no tea party candidate has yet stepped forward to challenge McConnell in the Republican primary, he was asked about one national tea party group that urged him to drop out of the race on Tuesday.
"I'm the leader of one of the two parties in the Senate," McConnell responded. "Kentucky has an extraordinary position of influence as a result of their confidence in me over the years. What will be the issue in the campaign is who is the most likely to support the Barack Obama, Harry Reid agenda, implementation of Obamacare and the War on Coal. My opponent will do that."
McConnell's comments went unchallenged by the Democratic candidate who has not made any public statements since her suspenseful announcement on Monday. As of Wednesday evening, Grimes' campaign had yet to launch a website or provide an opportunity for supporters to donate to the campaign.