With all the hoopla about actress and liberal activist Ashley Judd becoming a Democratic candidate in Kentucky against Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, one would think her nomination was a done deal.
Not so by a long shot, as there are signs the entertainer won’t have clear sailing for a bid to take on the five-term senator in 2014.
Democrat Party leaders aren’t sure Judd would be their strongest candidate against McConnell, and have begun to cast their eyes elsewhere for an alternative.
Critical stories about Judd began popping up in news outlets recently as the actress continued to ponder her political future. From ThisWeek.com reporting that “Democrats worry that Judd, a political neophyte, could cost the party a winnable race,” to the National Journal saying, “the honeymoon is over for Ashley Judd,” the twist in coverage is adding to concerns among party officials.
Bluegrass State and national Democrats are reportedly nervous about some of Judd’s comments, such as her remark that she did not want to have children because of her reluctance to raise them in a world of poverty, and her liberal environmental positions in a state with a large coal industry.
“She’s going to have a tough row to hoe,” Jim Cauley, campaign manager for Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear in 2007, told ThisWeek.com. “She doesn’t fit the damn state.” Kentucky is solidly conservative, giving 60 percent of its votes to Republican Mitt Romney for president last year.
Given the growing nervousness about Judd as a candidate and worries that an opportunity to defeat McConnell might be lost if she is their nominee, Democrats have begun to talk of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes as a possible alternative.
Several sources reported that a poll commissioned by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed that Grimes was a far more formidable candidate in the general election than political newcomer Judd.
While Judd hopes to parlay her fame into politics, being a celebrity doesn’t guarantee a victory at the ballot box.
Many celebrities who launched successful political careers already had a background in something dealing with politics.
Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp were presidents of the acting and football unions, respectively, before running for office. Sonny Bono had run several businesses and served as mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., before he went to Congress in 1994. And “Saturday Night Live” comic Al Franken was a Harvard graduate before his successful Senate bid from Minnesota in 2008.
But when a celebrity candidate gives signs of little more than “star power,” the result can be a disaster.
Certainly a case in point is that of drag racing legend Don “Big Daddy” Garlits, who was the Republican nominee for Congress in Florida in 1994. Garlits, who made controversial statements about homosexuality and wanted to send advocates of political correctness to prison, ended up losing the race for a seat which had been held by the GOP for all but four of the previous 28 years.
Party leaders need to decide which kind of star power Ashley Judd would bring to a Senate race in Kentucky before backing her bid.
Several Senate Democrats have signaled support for a plan crafted by Republican senators that would blunt the blow to the military of the sequestration budget cuts.
Republican Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania offered legislation to permit the five military service chiefs to determine precisely where the amount of the cuts would occur in their respective branches of the armed forces.
Now, as the sequestration process has set in, the Inhofe-Toomey proposal is drawing support from Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia signaled he favors the proposal and two of his Democratic colleagues — Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — have begun to make positive sounds about turning the cuts over to the service chiefs
An open House seat in Iowa could give Hawkeye State voters the chance to make history.
With Rep. Bruce Braley seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Harkin next year, his 1st Congressional District seat is up for grabs.
While many Republicans are mentioned for the seat, one possibility stands out: State Rep. Patrick Grassley, 29-year-old grandson of veteran Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Although the younger Grassley so far has not said what his plans are, Hawkeye State GOP operatives tell Newsmax that he would almost surely clear the primary field if he chooses to run — in part because of the near-reverence in which his grandfather is held, but also because Patrick Grassley chairs the state House Agriculture Committee in a very rural district.
There are several cases in congressional history of fathers serving in the Senate and their sons in the House at the same time (Ted and Patrick Kennedy, the Barry Goldwaters), but all evidence is that a grandfather and grandson together in each House of Congress is unprecedented.
The hot rumor among Connecticut Republicans is that Linda McMahon — one-time head of World Wrestling Entertainment and two-time U.S. Senate nominee — will make a third run for office in 2014.
Speculation has it the 64-year-old McMahon, who spent $97 million of her own money on bids for open Senate seats in 2010 and 2012, would run for a House seat, taking on Democratic Rep. Jim Himes in the Nutmeg State’s 4th Congressional District next year.
The problem, local observers tell Newsmax, is that McMahon never carried the district — which includes the state’s biggest city, Bridgeport, and several affluent towns in New York’s commuter belt — or any of the other four House districts, in either of her Senate runs.
John Gizzi is the former political editor for Human Events, working for the conservative weekly from 1979 to 2013. Gizzi is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence, was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002, and has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV talk shows.
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