Campaigner-in-Chief Bill Clinton pulls out Southern charm in Kentucky Senate race

Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

The Fine Print

Alison Lundergan Grimes was only in the first grade when Mitch McConnell was first elected to the U.S. Senate in Kentucky, but now, the 35-year-old Democrat is hoping to unseat the Senate Minority Leader.

And she’s doing it with the help of an old family pal: Bill Clinton.

“President Clinton is a friend, a mentor and an adviser,” Grimes told “The Fine Print” in Kentucky. “He's someone who has literally seen me grow up since I was 14 years old.”

Clinton hit the campaign trail yesterday to pitch for Grimes, telling the audience at a 1,200 people sold-out fundraiser that “it makes a big difference” if she wins in November.

Grimes’ father, former state legislator and Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan, has been a long-time supporter of the Clintons, helping to lay the groundwork for both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s respective presidential campaigns in Kentucky. A photograph of 14-year-old Grimes presenting a bouquet of roses to President Clinton at his 1993 presidential inaugural festivities serves as further evidence of the long-standing bond.

The link is also a way to distance herself from President Obama, who she did not mention in her remarks at yesterday’s a campaign event.

“I'm a Clinton Democrat through and through,” Grimes said. “My family proudly supported Secretary Clinton in her efforts. I hope she has the time and space to make the decision that's right for her.”

Asked if there are any specific accomplishments of Obama’s that she can use to her advantage during the campaign, Grimes could only point to the killing of Osama bin Laden and the president’s support for raising the minimum wage.

“In many respects, there are disagreements between the president and how his policies have impacted Kentucky -- disproportionately negatively impacting a large region of our state,” she said.

In Washington, McConnell made clear that he was not phased about the former president’s involvement in his opponent’s campaign and instead welcomed his involvement in Kentucky.

“Every time he's come, it's been really good for me," McConnell said of Clinton.

Grimes is framing her campaign on the basis of economic growth, making the case that McConnell’s policies have been harmful to the middle class and women in particular. She supports increasing the minimum wage and calls out McConnell for his opposition.

“His failed leadership has left thousands of Kentuckians, especially the women of Kentucky, in the lurch,” she said. “We are going to grow the middle class, and make sure to put the women of this state especially where they deserve to be and that's not at the back of the line; that's at the front of the line.”

Grimes said that while McConnell calls himself “the guardian of gridlock” and “the doctor of no,” she promises to chart a path of bipartisan compromise.

On the topic of Sen. Rand Paul, R – Ky., who has made headlines for breathing new life into the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Grimes brushed off his remarks.

“I think it is a distraction from what is Mitch McConnell's horrible, failed record on women,” she said. “When you vote against the Violence Against Women Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, I think it's one of the worst records in the United States Senate on behalf of women, who are 53 percent of the electorate here in Kentucky.”

For more of the interview with Grimes, including whether she believes that age should be a factor in this election, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”

ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe and Gary Westphalen contributed to this episode.

Jeff Eargle and Wes Crawford assisted in production.