To friends and foes, Maryland's Democratic lieutenant governor is "KKT."

The first "K" is for Katherine, the "T" is for Townsend and in her run for governor, it's the middle "K" that gets national attention. She's the eldest child of the late Robert F. Kennedy.

In early polls, she had a big lead, but it is nearly gone now and Democrats are griping that it is because Townsend is too soft, to which she has promised to take the gloves off.

Townsend enjoys an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate in Maryland and, with both her $6 million war chest and name recognition, she dwarfs her opponent, Rep. Robert Ehrlich, a two-term Republican congressman from upper Maryland who has managed to close the gap in recent polls to within the margin of error.

Democrats complain it's not because Ehrlich is hot, but because Townsend is tepid.

"Be a little more [former Texas Gov.] Ann Richards, a little less [former President] Jimmy Carter," one recent fan told her.

But she has never been known for throwing political punches, and now Townsend needs to convince anxious supporters that she is able.

"There's always a rhythm in a campaign and the rhythm now is we'll make his record clear and my record clear, and it will be clear to the voters, it'll be clear to those who want the distinction made," she told Fox News.

But behind her back whisperings persist.

Maryland's Democratic power brokers complain that Townsend has put personal friends in charge of her campaign and lacks seasoned political pros who know how to play offense and win.

And lately Townsend, who is known for her efforts to combat crime in Maryland, has been put on the defense by allegations that the crime control and prevention agency that she oversees as lieutenant governor has misappropriated funds.

"I think this is political garbage to distract from what I'm trying to do to -- actually help people to reduce crime," she said.

In the polls, Townsend leads among blacks and women but Ehrlich carries just about everyone else. Despite her name identification, she has never cracked 50 percent in approval ratings, and one of her campaign slogans has left people a bit confused.

She likes to talk about Maryland's "indispensable destiny" which even she has a hard time explaining.

Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.