By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Sen. Mitch McConnell finally has an opponent in Kentucky. The next question: Will he soon have two? His long-awaited Democratic rival is Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who joined the race Monday. Some Kentucky political watchers now wonder whether she will inspire a Tea Party candidate to enter the fray, believing that it could be easier to take down McConnell if he must contend with two challengers at once. While the Tea Party is loosely organized in Kentucky and Sen. Rand Paul is on McConnell's side, some critics of McConnell are still hoping Matthew Bevin, a Louisville businessman, will consider confronting McConnell from the right, while he is busy preparing for a new challenger on his left.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: She wasn't their first choice, and she wasn't the only option (at least not until she almost was). But Alison Lundergan Grimes just became the most important Democratic recruit of the Senate cycle. Why? The idea of giving Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a free pass, or something close to it, would have been a major blow to efforts to engage donors and activists in what's going to be a tough 2014 for Democratic congressional efforts. Democrats know they may not take down McConnell next year. But they also know they stand a better chance of keeping or perhaps expanding on their majority if Republicans have to sweat it for their leader - and if Democratic donors have been causes to get behind.
ABC's DEVIN DWYER: When it comes to being First Lady of the United States, big bangs do matter. Such was the joint declaration of First Lady Michelle Obama and her predecessor Laura Bush this morning at a summit of African first ladies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Mrs. Obama was discussing the public scrutiny of American first ladies' "shoes and our hair, whether we cut it or not," when Mrs. Bush interjected: "whether we have bangs!" "Whether we have bangs," agreed Obama, smiling and nodding her own. "We take our bangs and we stand in front of important things that the world needs to see. And eventually, people stop looking at the bangs and they start looking at what we're standing in front of," she said. "We hope," added Bush. "They do, and that's the power of our roles," Obama concluded.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The race is on in Kentucky and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has an opponent in 34-year-old Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Grimes announced yesterday and her spokesperson Jonathan Hurst told ABC News this decision was made because it's the "best way to utilize (Grimes') talent and move our country and our state forward." But, is she worried about just how nasty this race will get? Hurst says, "Absolutely not." "We saw those tactics play out last year in Senate races that were unsuccessful. People in Kentucky know Secretary Grimes, know Sen. McConnell will rely on bullying tactics. Secretary Grimes isn't worried about it, she knows Kentuckians can see through their old Washington tactics." We also spoke to Dale Emmons, a longtime Democratic consultant in Kentucky and old friend of the Lundergan family. He said her campaign "will be a homegrown campaign, Kentucky generated and driven. It will not be a typical U.S. Senate race and McConnell has not faced this before…Mitch (McConnell) is trying to make this a race about President Obama because he doesn't want it to be a race about him." Emmons quickly added that Grimes has never even met the president before, a theme sure to crop up quite soon on the Kentucky campaign trail.
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
A WALK IN WENDY'S SHOES: THE WOMAN BEHIND THE TEXAS FILIBUSTER. Before state Sen. Wendy Davis began filibustering a restrictive abortion bill in the Texas Capitol last week, she grabbed her pink running shoes. She may need to lace them up again, because another special session of the Texas legislature is underway again this week. "I thought maybe I might need something with a little more support, so I grabbed these on the way out the door," Davis told The Fine Print's JEFF ZELENY during an interview at her father's small theater in Fort Worth, Texas, where she once waited tables. "These are actually my running shoes. They're dusty from the trail around Ladybird Lake," she says, pointing to her Mizuno running shoes sitting on the table. Davis, a Harvard-educated attorney and single mother, wore the shoes as she stood for 11 hours and successfully blocked the passage of a bill that calls for banning abortions in Texas after 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Davis smiled when asked whether she used a catheter to avoid leaving the Senate floor, saying: "I came prepared." WATCH: http://yhoo.it/16LxnJ5
PRESIDENTS OBAMA AND BUSH HONOR VICTIMS OF BOMBING IN AFRICA: Presidents Obama and George W. Bush stood in silence in the shade of a tree in front of the US embassy in Tanzania as a U.S. Marine placed a wreath at a memorial marker to victims of a bombing 15 years ago, ABC's ANN COMPTON reports. Some Tanzanian survivors who still work at the embassy stood behind the presidents for the tribute. The twin bombings on August 7, 1998, killed a total of more than 200, most of them Africans, and it marked a coordinated assault with truck bombs on the embassy in Dar es Salaam and in Nairobi, capital of neighboring Kenya. The destructive force ruined both buildings and ushered in an era of attacks that include the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade towers. WATCH ABC's JONATHAN KARL report from Tanzania for "Good Morning America": http://abcn.ws/14nS2CM
GABRIELLE GIFFORDS SHOOTS GUN FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE TUCSON. Two-and-a-half years after being shot in the head, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords visited a shooting range and fired a gun on Monday, her first stop on a seven-state, seven-day bus tour to push for expanded background checks for firearms purchases, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. Accompanied by her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, on their "Rights and Responsibilities Tour," Giffords, wearing a green cardigan and an arm brace, smiled and waved after she shot the gun at the Clark County Shooting Complex in Las Vegas. Kelly also got in some target practice at the range. This was the first time Giffords shot a gun since a mentally ill man shot her and killed six others in her congressional district in Tucson, Ariz., in early 2011. Longtime Giffords spokeswoman Pia Carusone said Kelly and Giffords will be meeting on the tour with a "coalition of unlikely allies that support commonsense gun measures," likely including "gun owners, Republicans, independents, hunters, all sort of people." Giffords and Kelly's spirits were high and Monday was a "great kick-off" to what is going to be a "really strong tour," Carusone said. In April, the Senate defeated legislation that called for tighter background checks on gun purchases, and Giffords and Kelly will stop in some of the states with senators who voted against the measure in a bid to get them to switch their votes. VIDEO: http://abcn.ws/12aoTXw
-ON THE ITINERARY: Yesterday, the tour also visited the Latin Chamber of Commerce and met with community leaders today before heading off to its next stop: Anchorage, Alaska. Besides Nevada and Alaska, the tour also will stop in North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, Maine and New Hampshire. Giffords spokeswoman Pia Carusone noted that Kelly and Giffords potentially could meet with senators who voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal and their plan is to meet with those senators that "are in state and available." http://abcn.ws/12aoTXw
WHY IT'S HARDER TO GET AN ABORTION IN 5 STATES STARTING THIS WEEK. Abortion restrictions are popping up everywhere, it seems. While activists and celebrities protest a bill in Texas, Ohio just enacted legislation of its own. A thousand miles from Austin, Texas, Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed new restrictions Sunday night as part of a new state budget. Ohio will soon require that women receive ultrasounds before having abortions, and the state will ban public hospitals from having written agreements with abortion clinics to receive women for further care after they have elective abortions. Those laws won't take effect for 90 days, according to Kasich's office. But new laws, already passed and signed earlier this year, went into effect Monday in Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota. Another in Montana, and part of a law in Alabama, would have taken effect but were blocked by federal courts. All were passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures and signed by GOP governors. ABC's CHRIS GOOD outlines what they do: http://abcn.ws/16LvJqI
THE RACE IS ON: MITCH MCCONNELL GETS A CHALLENGER. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got a challenger for his U.S. Senate seat on Monday and her name is Alison Lundergan Grimes, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, JEFF ZELENY and MICHAEL FALCONE report. "I have met with my supporters. We have had a great conversation and determined and decided that we can next make the best move, the best difference in the commonwealth of Kentucky by running for the U.S. Senate," Grimes said at a news conference in Frankfort, Ky. "Over the course of the past 12 weeks I have taken the time necessary to gather all the facts to make truly an informed decision and that includes listening to my supporters all across this state," Grimes said. "Make no mistake members of the media this due diligence was not reluctance, it was not hesitancy, but rather a deliberate gathering of all the necessary facts to make a decision that should not be taken lightly. The announcement from Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state who is not a national figure like her opponent, was highly anticipated since the 34-year-old is thought to be the Democrats' best chance at defeating McConnell. Local polling has shown the Kentucky Republican is vulnerable, but until Monday, no high-profile Democrat had mounted a challenge. http://abcn.ws/17zOJJT
-MCCONNELL RESPONDS: "Accepting the invitation from countless Washington liberals to become President Obama's Kentucky candidate was a courageous decision by Alison Lundergan Grimes and I look forward to a respectful exchange of ideas," McConnell said in a statement shortly after the announcement.
-FROM THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT: National Democrats responded to Grimes' decision with Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, saying in a statement that the "race is now a tossup." "Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular incumbent in the entire country," Cecil said. "He is a relic of the past and a symbol of everything that is wrong with Washington. Kentuckians want a change…We expect to preserve our majority next year by defending strong incumbents and playing offense in Kentucky and Georgia. We have a long road to travel, but Republicans are making our job a little easier each day, failing to recruit strong candidates and expand the playing field." National Republicans weighed in on the news before Grimes officially announced with National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee strategist Brad Dayspring previewing how the GOP will try to frame Grimes. Dayspring said her announcement was "even more bizarre" because she "watched the president that she nominated at the Democratic National Convention last summer just declare a war on coal and Kentucky families." http://abcn.ws/17zOJJT
PEGGY NOONAN: REAGAN WOULD HAVE SYMPATHIZED WITH THE TEA PARTY. During an exclusive "This Week" Web extra, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, who served as a speechwriter to former President Ronald Reagan, said the late GOP icon would not be a RINO, or "Republican in Name Only," if he were operating in today's political climate, ABC's BEN BELL reports. "I think Ronald Reagan now would be a popular figure and I think he would have sympathy for many of the tea party impulses economically with regard to, 'Please make the government less oppressive, less powerful, less squishing down the American people,'" Noonan said of the former president who died in 2004 at age 93. "Reagan would be very sympathetic to that. I mean if Reagan had been born in 1940 … they would be talking about him now as a possible presidential nominee. So I think that's where he'd be." http://abcn.ws/14K8hse
@HotlineJosh: After DOMA, New Jersey is the next big gay marriage battleground-and it puts Chris Christie in a tough position http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/chris-christie-s-dance-to-keep-up-with-gay-marriage-20130702 … …
@RyanGOP: Happy Birthday Gov John Sununu.