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Hillary Clinton stumps for Grimes in tough Kentucky race

Hillary's convention-style rally for the Kentucky candidate was noteworthy, considering how careful she has been to avoid campaigning for potential losers.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Hillary Clinton forcefully defended the president's health care law as she campaigned on Wednesday for Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in her fight against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Kynect is about more than a website," Clinton said of the Kentucky exchange, the state health care marketplace created as part of the Affordable Care Act. "It has helped more than half a million Kentuckians get good, quality affordable health care."

In a Monday debate, McConnell told voters that he wants to repeal the health care law "root and branch," but said that the state's health care website is "fine."

"You cannot have it both ways. It's simple math," Clinton said. "If you repeal the federal law, there is no more federal money for subsidies for Kentucky families. There is no more money for Medicaid expansion, and think about … the forty eight thousand young people in Kentucky who will be thrown off their parents' insurance plans."

Grimes has largely avoided defending the health care law on the campaign trail, focusing instead on bread-and-butter issues like the minimum wage and equal pay.

Clinton's appearance in Louisville had the look and feel of a political convention-style rally, complete with sign posts marking out each county in the state. She made repeated references to her 2008 win in the primary here, reminiscing about dipping a bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon into the trademark red wax that seals the top of the bottle. If she were to run for president in 2016, Kentucky's union-focused blue collar Democrats are likely to again be a key constituency for her.

On Wednesday, Clinton warned voters here they would regret taking a victory for granted.

"Believe me," she said, "you don't want to wake up the day after the election and wish you had done more."

Still, she held back from criticizing McConnell by name, even as she attacked his policy positions. Instead, she referred to McConnell as "her opponent" and "he." It was a possible nod to their longstanding working relationship; in an interview Tuesday, McConnell called Clinton a "good friend."

Clinton's appearance on Grimes' behalf comes as the Senate candidate takes heat for refusing to say who she voted for in 2012 -- and as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled its ads down off the airwaves in Kentucky, a signal that national Democrats have soured on Grimes' chances of beating McConnell. Kentucky has been one of the few Republican states where Democrats hoped to pick up a seat; now, though, the DSCC will direct more resources toward races in states like Colorado and Georgia.

"We are ahead -- we are ahead not because of Washington, D.C., insiders -- no, Washington abandoned us a long time ago," Grimes said in her speech Wednesday.

Still, it's rare for Clinton to campaign for someone who's viewed as a potential loser. She's chosen her campaign schedule carefully, making appearances in Pennsylvania and Michigan where Democrats are far ahead. She also held a fundraiser in Colorado for Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who's in a toss-up race in a blue state.

Grimes, though, is a close family friend of the Clintons, as is her father, Jerry Lundergan, who once ran the Democratic Party in Kentucky. Grimes attended Bill Clinton's inauguration as a young girl, and both Clinton and Grimes referenced how long they'd known each other. Grimes called Clinton "a woman who has known me since I was literally 14 years old" and labeled herself a "Clinton Democrat." 

Said Clinton: "Let's put another crack in that glass ceiling and put another woman in the United States Senate."