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The Kentucky Senate race is already off and running just hours after Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes secured their parties’ nominations on Tuesday as both sides began previewing the themes of what will be a fiercely contested race.

McConnell publicly challenged Grimes to three debates Wednesday morning, while a super PAC supporting him released a TV ad painting Grimes as a close ally of both President Barack Obama and liberal Hollywood. Meanwhile Grimes released her on own ad calling for new leadership in Washington and “a senator who puts partisanship aside.”

The closely watched race could determine who controls the Senate for the last two years of President Barack Obama’s tenure and is expected to be the marquee contest of the 2014 midterm elections. A recent NBC News-Marist poll showed the two are in a dead heat after both easily beat back primary challengers.

McConnell’s challenge calls on Grimes to participate in three Lincoln-Douglas style debates “to present our views fairly and without the interpretation by traditional media filters.” The Senate minority leader said the debates should be conducted without notes or an audience, and that the first should occur before July 4.

The pro-McConnell super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership also wasted no time going on the offensive against Grimes, launching a TV ad tying her to liberal Hollywood supporters and President Barack Obama.

Grimes countered with her own TV ad Wednesday in which the 35-year-old Kentucky Secretary of State calls for voters to elect a senator who “works with both Democrats and Republicans to do what’s right for Kentucky and for our country.”

It is a noticeable softer tone than she struck during her victory speech one night earlier when she called McConnell “Senator Gridlock.”

“With his millions of D.C. lobbyist inside dollars and out of state Political Action Committees, Mitch McConnell is going to try to buy his way back to Washington, D.C., with deceitful, untruthful, negative, nasty ads,” she said Tuesday.