- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2013


When Ashley Judd, the liberal actress and activist, first floated the idea of running for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky many Democrats from Washington to Louisville all but swooned at the prospect. She seemed like the party’s best shot at taking out their biggest boogeymen, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate.

A candidate bringing star power, media savvy, instant name recognition and megamillions of Hollywood campaign cash to the dance, she was thought to be a star with a blinding advantage. However, on calmer consideration, many Kentucky Democrats and their Washington handlers are having second thoughts. Even Bill Clinton, a president with Bubba power who knows how to read a Southern landscape, has doubts. He and others now urge Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has been the Kentucky secretary of state for just 14 months, to jump into the race.

Miss Judd’s Tinseltown pedigree is now thought to be a significant liability. In 2006, Scotland’s Sunday Mail (a newspaper) asked Miss Judd whether she intended to have children with her husband at the time. She replied: “It’s unconscionable to breed, with the number of children who are starving to death in impoverished countries.” Remarks like that won’t win the votes of mothers in Kentucky, or fathers either, which isn’t promising in a state that gave Hollywood heartthrob Barack Obama just 38 percent of its vote last year.

A take-no-prisoners campaigner, Sen. McConnell likely would have made short work of a candidate like Ashley Judd. In 1984, he demolished two-term Sen. Walter “Dee” Huddleston with the season’s most memorable political television commercial, which featured a bounty hunter with a pack of bloodhounds in search of Mr. Huddleston, who was accused of “missing big votes” in Congress while making money giving speeches in Los Angeles, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. Even Miss Judd’s mother, country singer Naomi Judd, dismisses the idea of her daughter as senator: “She’s not as smart as she acts.”

Democrats are bumping against the limits of celebrity politics. Under President Obama, they hit a nadir with visits to the White House by foul-mouthed rappers (Common, Cee-Lo Green and Jay-Z), an interview with a Miami disk jockey called “the Pimp with the Limp,” and a 2012 campaign commercial titled “The First Time,” featuring actress Lena Dunham likening voting for Mr. Obama to a first sexual experience.

Democrats recruited a celebrity winner in 2008 in Al Franken, a second-billing comic on “Saturday Night Live” whose liberal views made him a good fit in deep blue Minnesota. But Kentucky, a gritty working-class state with a deep religious tradition, is not Minnesota. Ashley Judd’s environmental activism wouldn’t win many of Kentucky’s thousands of coal miners, nor of the “breeders” who cherish their children as gifts from God. Miss Judd is well advised to sit out this one.

Party leaders anxious about the possibility of her candidacy dooming Democratic candidates down-ballot are right to search for a better option.

The Washington Times

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