A Potential Hurdle for Ashley Judd's Senate Bid

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 11 2013 3:21 PM

A Potential Hurdle for Ashley Judd's Senate Bid

Actress Ashley Judd (L) cheers with the rest of the Tennessee delegation before reading the state's vote totals during the roll call vote for the Democratic presidential nomination during the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 5, 2012.
Actress Ashley Judd (L) cheers with the rest of the Tennessee delegation before reading the state's vote totals during the roll call vote for the Democratic presidential nomination during the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Sept. 5, 2012.

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Ashley Judd is seen by many political observers as Democrats' best bet to upset Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell next year, but the party's powerbrokers have so far been unwilling to commit to backing the actress-turned-activist. Via Politico:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is not throwing its weight behind Ashley Judd yet. On a conference call with reporters Monday, the committee’s executive director, Guy Cecil, described the actress Monday as one in "a handful of quality candidates in Kentucky."
He would not directly deny a report in the Louisville Eccentric Observer that his committee is reevaluating Judd and giving a second look at Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes after a poll conducted for the DSCC found her outperforming Judd against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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While Grimes doesn't have the national profile that Judd does, she has proved successful at the state level, beating an incumbent Democrat in a 2011 primary on her way to a general election victory that November. She is also the daughter of Jerry Lundergan, the former state party chairman, which is likely one reason Democratic officials are in no hurry to pick a winner before the primary battle even begins.

Judd has been inching closer and closer to launching her campaign for the past several weeks and, according to the Huffington Post, is likely to make things official in early May. Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination, it'll likely be an uphill battle to unseat McConnell given his position as the Senate's top Republican and the state's political makeup.

Some GOP insiders have expressed optimism that they'll be able to turn Judd into "the liberal Democrat version of Todd Akin" thanks to her ties to Hollywood and outspoken liberal positions on things like the environment and social issues (a tough sell in Kentucky's coal country). That said, given the GOP's extensive preemptive attacks on Judd, it's pretty clear they view her as a formidable challenger to McConnell, no doubt in large part due to her perceived ability to garner national media attention and to bring in large amounts of cash from outside of the state.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.