Senator Ashley Judd? Kentucky governor Steve Beshear confirmed yesterday that he talked to the 44-year-old Double Jeopardy star about a possible Senate race — and that they’ll be arranging more discussions. “I think she would be a very serious candidate,” he told the Courier Journal at an afternoon bill signing.
As Kim LaCapria reported, the rumors that Judd will run got a fresh infusion when she recently met with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington. Both Judd and the governor are Democrats, and they are seeking a strong candidate to unseat powerful five-term incumbent Mitch McConnell.
Both Kentucky senators are conservative Republicans, and a more liberal Democrat would normally not present much of a challenge — especially since Sen. McConnell is also the Senate Minority Leader. Voters are often reluctant to lose a powerful senator, even if some of his views seem a tad extreme. However, Ashley Judd’s star power means that she has the all-important name recognition that encourages voters to pull the trigger in the ballot booth.
Molly Redden, writing for the conservative New Republic, warned other conservatives: “Mock her at your own risk.” Star power works, and Redden (and most fans) acknowledge that Judd has plenty of it.
The Republican party has used the same technique themselves. In 2003, Terminator star and Republican Arnold Swarzenegger of California was elected governor in the normally liberal, Democratic state. The GOP is taking the rumors seriously, to the point where Karl Rove’s American Crossroads has released an attack ad suggesting that Judd’s gone Hollywood — or at least Tennessee.
They have a point. Ashley Judd does live in Tennessee. Before she could even register for the Kentucky race, she would have to move back to Kentucky and establish residency there. But it might be worth the hassle if she gets the go-ahead from supportive Democratic officials.
In December, Public Policy Polling released a survey ranking Sen. McConnell as the least popular senator in the entire nation. Independents don’t like him, with only one-third of Kentucky independents saying they have a “favorable” impression of him. Even die-hard Republicans are less than thrilled, with less than 60% claiming that they have a “positive view” of his service. Ouch.
Ashley Judd is easier on the eyes and seems more likable than the long-time Senator. But is it enough to qualify and win the Senate?