Now that the old white guy at the Pentagon is set to be confirmed, online conservative media seem ready to target a female movie star, no matter how thin the evidence. Ashley Judd, the 44-year-old actress-turned-philanthropist-turned-memoirist, appears poised to run for Senate in her home state of Kentucky, where she would challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and outlets like the National Review and The Daily Caller have begun digging up dirt (we're defining "dirt" loosely here) against the potential candidate. To be sure, Judd has been through this gauntlet already — both Republican strategist Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell's campaign have aired attack ads against her. The latest push to discredit Judd is equally fervent but relies on a record that, because Judd has never been a politician, is pretty non-existent. Here's a quick review.
Over at The Daily Caller, where Senators and prostitutes have been all the rage lately, reporter Alex Pappas issued a lengthy dossier today of Judd's prior comments (culled from her personal website, her Twitter feed, and her 2012 memoir) that in Pappas's formulation ought to disqualify her from taking Kentucky's Senate seat:
By getting in the race with this sort of baggage, Judd runs the risk of being portrayed as a Todd Akin-esque candidate — meaning voters simply decide she’s unqualified to serve as a senator, because her comments are so outrageous and extreme that people can’t bring themselves to vote for her."
What, exactly, did Judd say that was so "outrageous and extreme"? Pappas himself seemed unsure, and a few of his Judd excerpts came with caveats built in. During one essay, for example, Judd describes the practice of mountaintop removal mining as an "environmental genocide" but acknowledges how unwise that sounds: "I accept that I set myself up for ridicule for using such strong terms, or perhaps outrage from human victims of slaughter."
But in a separate item published on Tuesday afternoon, Pappas decided to emphasize a passage from Judd's 2012 memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet, in which she argues that it would have been "selfish" for her to procreate instead of adopting an already-born child. This, Pappas notes, "probably won’t go over very well with voters in the Bluegrass State," without explaining why.
Over at the National Review Online, meanwhile, Roberta Costa (no stranger to the "sink Hagel" and "postpone Hagel" campaign) dug up Judd's public voting record (as a citizen), which shows that she tends to flake out during mid-term elections and didn't vote in the year 2000. Costa doesn't read too much into her voting history — he simply calls it "spotty" — and acknowledges a December 2012 Public Policy Polling survey which reported that Judd is capable of unseating McConnell. But the sentiment is clear: Judd presents a threat to Mitch McConnell, who in both his official capacity as the Minority Leader and his less-than-official role as a GOP firebrand, serves as a symbolic figure to both parties.
Meanwhile, over at Breitbart, where "Friends of Hamas" is still kind of real, there are pantless pictures of Ashley Judd, divider of Democrats. Which is not to say that Democrats have rallied behind Judd's campaign — they haven't. The actress enjoys the local support of Kentucky Democrats, who would want to see McConnell challenged anyway, but the party's national base has remained silent about her campaign, potentially seeing her as a decent candidate gunning for an unwinnable race. "It’s incredibly hard for Democrats to win statewide races in states as conservative as Kentucky," Jonathan Chait argued on Monday, conceding that Democrats can win in such states if they position themselves to the right of their party's leaders. "But Ashley Judd isn’t way more conservative than the national Democrat party. She’s way less conservative." (Which raises an interesting question about this week's dirt-digging: Why attack Judd on her "outrageous" statements if she can't even win on her platform? Liberal groups are weirdly going after McConnell's... wife.)
Of course, this is Karl Rove's election to lose. Judging by his performance in 2012 — when no Rove-backed candidate won — it seems clear he doesn't want to take any chances on Judd, who, judging from her Twitter feed, has her home state on her mind: