Dems fear Ashley Judd is political Kryptonite in Kentucky Senate race
Ashley Judd is thinking about challenging Mitch McConnell in the 2014 election, and it is reportedly worrying local Democrats, even as the Beltway establishment is transfixed at the prospect of an attractive and energetic female celebrity emerging as a public face of the party. The situation holds great potential for amusement, a veritable carnival of celebrity leftist foibles.
Joshua Miller of Roll Call explains why the locals are worried:
"If she runs, I think that it would be a catastrophe for a lot of downballot races in Kentucky," said Jimmy Cauley, a longtime Kentucky Democratic strategist who doesn't believe Judd can win a general election. Among Democratic state legislators, he said, "there is significant worry about Ashley being on the ballot."
Democrats plugged into the Frankfort, Ky., zeitgeist publicly and privately confirmed those sentiments. The crux of their worry is this: As a celebrity and strong supporter of President Barack Obama, Judd's position at the top of the ticket could nationalize state and local races. They see her losing the Senate contest - an uphill climb for any Democrat - and potentially poisoning the conservative brand of some state Democrats.
For years, the Kentucky Democratic Party has racked up significant successes at the state and local level, from the governor's mansion down the ballot. But in federal elections, Republicans have won victory after victory. In November, Obama lost the state, winning less than 38 percent of the vote.
"I have yet to talk to an elected official in Kentucky - other than [Rep.] John [Yarmuth] - who thinks Ashley should run or thinks she can prevail in this contest," Kentucky Democratic consultant Dale Emmons said.
Karl Rove's American Crossroads has taken a leaf from the Democrats' book and begun defining Judd even before she is in the contest in a now-famous (notorious among Democrats and celebrities) video ad.
Ms. Judd, like many thespians, combines high-powered empathy with high powered ambition. She gets inside her roles with an acute ability to empathize, feeling what it must be like to be the character she portrays. Her breakthrough role 20 years ago as Ruby, in the low budget independent film Ruby in Paradise (a role she reportedly fought for) vividly portrayed the struggles of a young member of the white underclass ("I've done retail before, and I work real cheap.")
Her humanitarian work gushes empathy. From Faces of Philanthropy:
"During her travels, she has witnessed the life of the poor and uneducated, and has since then become an advocate for preventing poverty and promoting awareness among the world. In her efforts, she has met political and religious leaders, heads of states, diplomats, and leaders to lend her voice to the deprived, and to convey the message to those who have the power to bring about political and social change."
And active she has been, in causes and in politics. Her outspoken support for President Obama has earned her a lot of friends at elite levels of the party. Among the celebrities who want to be taken seriously for their minds as well as their beauty, speaking out on politics and enlisting in Democrat campaigns generates prestige. And it looks like Ms. Judd may be harnessing her ambitions to political office.
Mitch McConnell currently leads Judd 49 to 40 in the polls. Back in the day when Dick Morriss was still welcome on Fox News, he instructred us that an incumbent polling under 50% is in trouble. I am far from an expert on Kentucky politics, but the preponderance of local opinion that Ashley Judd would make the race a referendum on Obama makes sense to me. This is a race to keep your eyes on.