What happened to the Senatorial aspirations of Hollywood celebrity Ashley Judd? Some believed that she got chased out of the race after Republicans in Kentucky and the NRSC began launching attacks on her past statements, making her reluctant to spend the time and money. Others think that Kentucky Democrats changed their minds on a celebrity campaign after determining that Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes became interested. Both may be true, but according to Judd adviser Jonathan Miller in today’s Daily Beast, the real proximate cause of Judd’s withdrawal was a dirty tricks campaign not from Republicans, but from Kentucky Democrats — aided by a national media that got easily “duped”:
The past several weeks had seemed like a dizzying blur of false testimony, as the national media seized any morsel of news or gossip to sate its ravenous appetite for Ashley Judd stories. As the actress contemplated whether to move back to Kentucky and challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, I was alternating with Congressman John Yarmuth as witness for the defense against a steady stream of salacious recriminations.
The prosecution was assisted in nearly every article by the same handful of Democratic professionals railing against the prospects of a Judd candidacy, promoting instead the potential Senate candidacy of Kentucky’s young Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes. While many may legitimately believe that Grimes is the better candidate, many of those who have been quoted impugning Judd, or have done so on background, also have personal motives: some stand to profit from a Grimes campaign, some may have been trying to redress perceived “disses” by the actress, and some may be aiming to keep Grimes out of the 2015 gubernatorial race, where she could undermine their preferred candidates.
But at least this cast of characters gave their identities, if not their agendas. The most egregious disinformation came from entirely anonymous sources.
Such was the charge that Judd told a group of supporters at a private dinner in Louisville, “I have been raped twice, so I think I can handle Mitch McConnell.” The actress’ apparent flippant comparison of a political campaign to sexual assault spread like Ebola across the Internet, leading some to classify Judd as the Democratic version of Todd Akin.
The problem is, it never happened.
I was at that dinner and never heard her say anything remotely like that.
Be sure to read it all. At first, Judd’s withdrawal prompted some criticism of the aggressive Republican campaign to lay the political groundwork for a McConnell-Judd election battle, but Miller’s article makes it clear that the effective attack on Judd was an inside job. The final straw, Miller says, was an unsourced claim that Bill Clinton opposed a Judd run against McConnell, a story which ABC News later refuted. By then, Miller writes, it was too late.
Why did Kentucky Democrats kneecap Judd? National Journal reports that Democrats in red states are looking for dynasty figures to run against Republicans in Senate races, such as Lundergan Grimes:
Landrieu and Pryor stand out as Democrats campaigning in states that President Obama lost by landslides—17 and 24 points, respectively—in the 2012 presidential election. Among the other Senate Democrats with family connections that could help them get through tough reelection campaigns: Mark Begich of Alaska, son of Rep. Nick Begich, who died in a mysterious plane crash; Mark Udall of Colorado, son of the late Rep. Morris “Mo” Udall and cousin of Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.; and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, wife of longtime Democratic operative and former U.S. Attorney William Shaheen.
Traditionally, family ties are one of politics’ greatest blessings, bestowing lucky offspring with a ready-made name brand, grassroots support, and a fundraising network. Former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.—son of another popular Indiana Democrat, former Sen. Birch Bayh—once coined the phrase “legacy caucus” to refer to the senators representing seats once held by their fathers, including Pryor; Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and former Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.; Bob Bennett, R-Utah; and Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I.
But the antiestablishment tea-party movement and the public’s disdain for Washington can elevate fresh faces and outsider status over the prospect of family dynasties.
Perhaps Miller needs to look farther than Kentucky for the strategy behind the backstab of Judd.