Ashley Judd mocked in GOP ad. Will it scare her off Kentucky Senate run?(Read article summary)
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not popular in Kentucky, and a poll puts actress Ashley Judd, a Democrat, within range of defeating him in 2014. The ad is a preemptive strike.
Robert A. Martin/The Free Lance-Star/AP/File
Did Ashley Judd think running for Senate in Kentucky would be a pleasant experience? If so, thatâ€™s an illusion thatâ€™s now probably been dispelled. Karl Roveâ€™s American Crossroads "super PAC" has just released a brutal ad that torches Ms. Judd, whoâ€™s considering a Bluegrass State bid to unseat Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. Itâ€™ll be interesting to see if the spot helps scare her off â€“ or if it lights her competitive fires and draws a response in kind.
The ad starts with a fake trailer listing production information. Its â€śclientâ€ť is listed as â€śAshley Judd, really?â€ť The â€śtitleâ€ť is â€śVote for me, you hillbillies.â€ť The â€śdateâ€ť is posted as, â€śWhenever Obama tells her to run."
Then an image flashes on screen of flags, sun streaming through a country porch, and so forth, and the fun really starts. â€śYou know what this country really needs? An independent voice ... for Obama,â€ť says the narrator.
An inset image of Judd voicing support for the president appears, over a caption that says, â€śObama=brilliant."
Then the voice continues its mock-serious tone, calling Judd â€śa leader who knows how to follow," and â€śsomeone who will never forget where she came from."
That last line is followed by a clip of Judd saying, â€śand it just clicked: Tennessee is home.â€ť (Itâ€™s true that Judd has split time between a Tennessee ranch and a home in Scotland with her soon-to-be-ex-husband, race car driver Dario Franchitti.)
The spot continues from there, mentioning that Juddâ€™s own grandmother has called her a â€śHollywood liberal," highlighting her support for Obamaâ€™s health-care reforms (â€śObamacare has done so much right for us here in Tennessee,â€ť she says in a clip), replaying clips of her saying â€śhillbillyâ€ť and â€śradicalâ€ť several times, and so on.
The narrator wraps up with a flourish. â€śAshley Judd,â€ť he says, â€śan Obama-following, radical Hollywood liberal, whoâ€™s right home here in Tennessee. I mean Kentucky.â€ť
Weâ€™ll note here that itâ€™s unusual to launch campaign ads against people who arenâ€™t actually running. Judd â€“ daughter of country singer Naomi Judd and someone with deep Kentucky roots of her own â€“ has said sheâ€™s considering the Senate race, and sheâ€™s been flattered to be asked, but so far she hasnâ€™t done anything concrete to indicate sheâ€™s actually going to jump in. She hasnâ€™t put together any campaign or money organizations, for instance, or begun to talk about issues in a manner more likely to appeal to voters in Kentucky, a state thatâ€™s reliably Republican at the national level.
But maybe the GOP is taking her seriously. After all, a December survey from Public Policy Polling found her to be Senator McConnellâ€™s strongest potential challenger, trailing him by only four points, 43 percent to 47 percent.
In general, McConnell is in a fairly weak position, perhaps due to the time he spends on national as opposed to state concerns. A recent Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll found that 34 percent of Kentucky voters said they planned to oppose McConnell, while only 17 percent said they would support him. Forty-four percent said theyâ€™d wait to see who ran against him before deciding whom to support.
In that context, the Judd ad could be considered as what Jim Geraghty at National Reviewâ€™s The Corner blog calls â€śbattlespace preparation." It rounds up all her perceived weaknesses in Kentucky and hits voters with them at once. If she does run, sheâ€™ll have to redefine herself in terms more likely to appeal to Kentuckyâ€™s generally conservative voters.
But Karl Rove is pretty shrewd about state-level politics, and itâ€™s also possible that heâ€™s just doing this as a generic support for McConnell and a way to get some attention in the national media. After all, the group says itâ€™s spending only about $10,000 to push this Web-only spot. Thatâ€™s a rounding error on American Crossroadsâ€™ checkbook. So heâ€™s just saluting it up a flagpole to see who runs. Or something like that.