Was Ashley Judd sabotaged by rival Democrats?

Ashley Judd was forced out of the Kentucky Senate race by Democrats, says an adviser. But, in many ways, the charges he makes sound a lot like typical, sharp-elbowed politics.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/File
Actress Ashley Judd, seen here in Pasadena, Calif., last year, was considering running for Senate.

Was Ashley Judd’s Kentucky Senate bid undone by rival Democrats? That’s the charge Judd adviser Jonathan Miller is making today in a piece on The Daily Beast.

Mr. Miller, a former Kentucky state treasurer, writes that Democratic supporters of current Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes kept up a steady stream of sniping at Ms. Judd via a credulous national mainstream media. Furthermore, some unnamed Democrat circulated a false report that Judd, at a private Louisville dinner, said “I have been raped twice, so I think I can handle Mitch McConnell.”

“I was at that dinner and never heard her say anything remotely like that,” writes Miller.

The last straw was news stories reporting that former President Bill Clinton had met with Ms. Grimes and was trying to force Judd out of the race. The problem here was that the Big Dog had met with Judd and actually urged her to run against incumbent GOP Senate minority leader McConnell, according to Miller.

ABC News ultimately cleared up the record, but by then the narrative was set – the most popular national figure for Kentucky Democrats was opposed to a Judd candidacy, providing further oxygen to the anti-Ashley conflagration,” writes Miller.

OK, we’re not a Kentucky insider. We did not even put Louisville in our March Madness Final Four. (Go Wolverines!) But it seems pretty obvious to us that Judd’s candidacy unraveled due to larger, basic political forces.

For instance, last time we looked Judd still lived in Tennessee. McConnell ran an ad in February that hit her hard for that, among other things. It had several clips of her saying stuff like, “Tennessee is home!” Yes, Judd was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention – from Tennessee. In a state as proud as Kentucky this was going to be a big problem, however deep her roots. Heck, non-residency would be a big problem in any state, proud or not.

And Judd has made many straightforward comments about policy that would get her in more trouble than the fictional reference linking “rape” and “McConnell.” She’s criticized mountaintop coal mining as “environmental genocide,” for instance. Coal is a powerful industry in her state, and in many parts of Kentucky mountaintop removal mining is popular due to the jobs it represents.

“Ashley Judd is an egotistical brat from California,” said Wayne Rutherford, Pike County judge-executive, back in 2010 after Judd made her mining comments.

And that’s her final problem: the movie industry connection. It could bring her money and recognition and lots of blog-delivered page view publicity. But it also would let McConnell paint her as an out-of-touch Hollywood liberal bent on forcing everyone in America to drive hybrids to their government health care. And Kentucky is a red state: last fall it went for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by 61 to 38 percent.

So that’s why we think Judd decided not to run. She took a look at the electoral context and decided she did not want to undertake a race that she would more than likely lose.

That doesn’t mean there’s not some truth to what Miller says. But as Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce notes, complaining that party rivals hit your candidate with sharp elbows and reporters hungry for a story were eager to print whatever they felt like is tantamount to whining about reality. If you can’t take that heat, get back to the film studio.

“Making the argument that her candidacy was doomed at the start because other Democrats did her dirt, or because a bogus ‘narrative’ was created by the national media is the functional equivalent of saying that she didn’t run because she got up one morning, faced east, and found that the sun was in her eyes,” writes Mr. Pierce.

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