Hold your Hollywood horse races, because the Democratic Party may have an Ashley Judd problem. On Monday morning leaders from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee declined to say whether they would support a rumored Judd campaign for U.S. Senator of Kentucky, instead remarking that the Democratic field for potential candidates to run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was wide open. The remarks, delivered during a media conference call, appear to confirm reports that the DSCC is having second thoughts about running Judd against McConnell. They may also be allowing a literal superstar candidate announce on her own terms, but, as the Louisville Eccentric Observer reports:
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is now applying the brakes to their once all-in support of Ashley Judd as the challenger of choice against Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014. While not ready to abandon Judd, they are now taking a serious second look at recruiting Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Grimes isn't a far-left-field choice — she was the subject of an attack ad funded by McConnell's campaign — and, according to polls conducted by the DSCC, has a better chance than Judd of unseating McConnell. But unlike Judd, Grimes doesn't appear particularly committed to running for Senate (she certainly isn't leaking her intentions to Fox News) and wouldn't be able to match Judd's undeniable star power, and the fundraising that entails. At the very least, Grimes would be vulnerable to Judd in the Democratic primary.
At the same time, the DSCC's hesitance is understandable. The Kentucky Senate race may actually be theirs to lose: McConnell remains the least popular Senator in the entire country. Furthermore, Judd hasn't announced anything, yet she's already been the subject of two different attack ads and a bevy of reports about her past remarks about mountain-top-removal mining (which remains popular in Kentucky), childbirth ("it's unconscionable to breed, with the number of children who are starving to death in impoverished countries"), and even men ("throughout history, men have tried to control the means of reproduction, which means trying to control woman"). She'll likely require constant help controlling the tone and content of her campaign — even at the expense of other, perhaps closer contests, as both sides would appear to be all-in with national funding in the potential Judd-McConnell contest.
That doesn't mean Judd isn't aware of her vulnerabilities, or those of her would-be opponent. Sources within the actress's circle told the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman over the weekend that an announcement, reportedly planned for May around the Kentucky Derby, would shift attention away from Democratic anxieties about her electability and toward defeating McConnell, thereby "setting up a wild, made-for-YouTube contest between the free-wheeling, media-savvy Hollywood actress and the methodically accusatory machine of ... Mitch McConnell." In other words, Judd knows she needs to convince party leaders that her perceived vulnerabilities — her Hollywood career, her outspokenness — can be turned into strengths. Which is to say that Judd would need the Democratic establishment to believe in her as much as she believes in herself — at some point.