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Ashley Judd's Senate bid: Over before it begins?
Democrats appear to be reconsidering whether the liberal movie star is the best candidate to run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Ashley Judd's star power may not be enough to beat Mitch McConnell.
Ashley Judd's star power may not be enough to beat Mitch McConnell. AP Photo/Ralph Lauer
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ast week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was reportedly ready to fully support actress Ashley Judd if she decided to run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Now, the group is "re-evaluating" its enthusiasm, according to Kentucky's Louisville Eccentric Observer, after a poll the group commissioned found that another candidate would have a better shot at winning. 

Indeed, now some Democrats worry that Judd, a political neophyte, could cost the party a winnable race against a high-profile GOP incumbent. The poll suggested that another Democrat, Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, would be a stronger challenger against McConnell.  Some Bluegrass state Democrats worry that Judd's liberal politics and connections to President Obama might prove toxic in a state where 60 percent of voters backed Mitt Romney in 2012.

"The honeymoon is over for Ashley Judd," says Michael Catalini at National Journal. She has attracted national attention as she prepares to announce whether she'll run, and her supporters insist she's the only Democrat with the star power to raise the money it will take to beat Kentucky's senior senator. Some insiders in the national party think Judd would be able to fill a war chest that would force Republicans to divert resources from other states to save McConnell. But powerful Kentucky Democrats worry that Bluegrass State voters would be see Judd as a Hollywood-style liberal out of sync with their politics. "She's gonna have a tough row to hoe," said Jim Cauley, who ran Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's 2007 campaign and also worked on President Obama's 2004 Senate campaign. "She doesn't fit the damn state."

In a way, it makes sense for national Democrats to want to pit Judd against McConnell, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Democrats are unlikely to unseat a five-term incumbent in an off-presidential year even with a strong nominee, "so why not roll the dice on a celebrity?" Kentucky Democrats, however, are unlikely to buy that logic, because they have much more at stake. Judd is "enough of a loose cannon that she might end up hurting other Democratic candidates across the state." Kentucky is "reliably red" in presidential and Senate elections, but Democrats do well in gubernatorial contests and other statewide elections. "If Judd acts a bit too... Judd-like on the trail," voters might flock to Republicans and leave Democrats locked out of power for the next several years.

Well, Judd doesn't have her party's blessing yet, says Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post, but she's still a contender. McConnell's low approval ratings offer Democrats a "serious pickup opportunity," and the DSCC — the campaign arm of Senate Democrats — has identified the race as a top priority in 2014. The group's executive director, Guy Cecil, says Democrats have a "handful of quality candidates" ready to challenge McConnell, but the only ones he's mentioning by name are Judd and Grimes. Meanwhile, Kentucky Democrats say Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked them to quiet complaints about Judd. "Not a good sign when Reid is playing spin control for Judd and she hasn't even been nominated yet," says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. But at least one thing is certain — "star power" alone won't be enough to unseat McConnell, "one of the most canny politicians in the United States."

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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