Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Goodbye, Ashley Judd? Why McConnell Might Be More Worried

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ashley Judd’s decision to stay out of next year’s Kentucky Senate race absolutely won’t deprive Democrats of the sort of young woman who’s well-funded and telegenic enough to topple Mitch McConnell. In fact, the chances have gone up on just such a scenario.

That’s because the candidate who’s always been preferred over Judd by the Democratic establishment, both in the state and inside the Beltway, is now positioned to step in and take a clear shot at becoming only the third challenger in more than 60 years to deny re-election to an incumbent Senate party floor leader.

She is 34-year-old Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state for the past year and the scion of one of the best-connected Democratic families in the state. Because she’s already won statewide but is in a job that does not require her to stake out firm positions on any of the polarizing issues of the day, Grimes has the potential to be a difficult combination for McConnell to counter.

Grimes already is a proven vote-getter — she won by 20 points in 2011 after defeating an incumbent in the primary. But she wouldn’t have the sort of voting record or other paper trail that the minority leader could plumb for inconsistencies or positions outside the Kentucky mainstream.

Instead, Grimes would be able to define herself, without much fear of contradiction, as both a centrist and someone interested in state issues and the local economy first. And she would see plenty of attack ad opportunities by looking through McConnell’s six-year record as a leader of the ever-more-conservative and nationally polarizing Senate GOP.

And she has the promise of significant organizational and fundraising help from the network of the Clintons, who remain close to her father, Jerry Lundergan. He is a major player in union politics and, as state party chairman, helped Bill Clinton carry Kentucky in 1992 and 1996, the last Democratic nominee to do so.

All of which means that if Grimes runs for Senate, as is widely expected, instead of waiting for the 2015 gubernatorial race, Kentucky will probably end up hosting a Senate race almost as expensive and heavily covered as it would have been had the challenger been Judd. Her liberal activism and Hollywood glamour would have guaranteed a fascinating campaign, even though it made most Democratic strategists extremely wary from the outset.

At the same time, there are several reasons why the better bet at this moment is on McConnell to win a sixth term. More on that next time.

  • angeleyez

    Doesn’t Alison Grimes support Obama’s gun control agenda ?

  • NorthboroughDan

    Hey, I just might contribute $10 to a group that starts bashing McConnell on radio and TV now. And I bet there are millions like me who would contribute as well. Anyone?

    • kayatz3

      I would in a minute!

  • Nosh_72

    If she gets in early and starts fundraising I think she has a chance. Wait too long and he will pummel you with his money, campaign machinery, commercials, fundraising and party aperture.

    • sunnyjane

      There are a lot of progressives outside KY who will support Grimes. Trust me on this.

  • TINA


  • judgeglenda

    we need to get mcconnell out he has done nothing for ky just advanced himself in the senate.

  • Susan Kenski-Sroka

    It is time to send Mitch McConnell into retirement. Good luck Ms Grimes, we are rooting for you

  • oldwhiteguy

    McConnell has the appearance of a college dean. But in reality, he is a groin-puncher. I lived in Kentucky when he first won. This was back before things got so routinely nasty. I was pretty amazed at how he went for the jugular on his opponent, running lots of tabloid-like attack ads. He’s one I sure wouldn’t be sad to see go. He was the genius who announced that the primary goal of the Republicans was to defeat Obama. Wonder whatever happened to doing your job and getting some legislation passed that might be of help to the people in your state and the nation at large. Well, we saw the agenda and clearly rejected it last time around. I think it’s time for McConnell to get a real job.

    • Rob_Chapman

      McConnel looks like what he is the son of an army NCO.

      McConnell deserves credit for keeping the Senate GOP caucus from degenerating into the animal house that we view in the House.

      But McConnell has done precious little else with his power but build a political machine and appoint friends and relatives to high positions.

      • kayatz3

        And they talk about ‘cronies’ right? hypocrites!

    • kayatz3

      I think he’s well beyond his usefullness and needs to get out..NOW! He’s loaded, he doesn’t need a job…just needs to be out of this one. For the sake of this country…please get rid of this moron!

  • bubba_shawn

    Senator Mitch McConnell is a great leader for the Republican Senate minority and in 2014 should be the Senate Majority Leader. For decades, he has fought tough political fights for conservatives on social and fiscal issues held dear by Reagan conservatives.

    He is a smart leader in the Senate that has united the Senate Republicans against Obama and Senate Democrats wrecking the US economy and society.

    Senator Mitch McConnell is a conservative Republican that absolutely needs to be reelected for the sake of the country!

    • john townsend

      McConnell post-election comment:

      “The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term,” McConnell said. “Now it’s time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House,” he said, “and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.”

      This chiding comment shows clearly McConnell just doesn´t get it.

      Voters have resoundly rejected his brand of scortched earth politics, brinksmanship, and debilitating obstructionism. It´s a mean-spirited strategy which hasn´t worked for four years, far too long to hold gov´t hostage. McConnell has failed, and needs to step down as minority senate leader. The 2014 mid-terms can´t come soon enough.

      • bubba_shawn

        Why not advocate President Obama to resign for the good of the country? Mitch McConnell is absolutely correct in his comment that you have quoted.

        What you call obstructionism I call protecting the American way of life.

        • Rob_Chapman

          Unlike McConnell and the GOP House caucus, Obama has tried to work with the other party.

          Working with the other party preserves the American Way of Life, not dictating to them.

    • erik77

      Are you related to him or just work on his staff?

      • bubba_shawn


    • Rob_Chapman

      The GOP wrecked the US economy with policies McConnell supported and continues to support:
      *disinvestment or offshoring of US jobs;
      *massive military commitments overseas; and,
      *tax policies that fail to generate enough revemue to run the government.

    • Sandra DeClue

      I live in Kentucky what planet do you live on? He has never done anything but help the oil companies and big business and block legislation that would help middle class, poor, and veterans.

    • George Phillips

      Are you delusional?? He may be good at taking money from the puppet masters but for Kentucky he is a miserable failure for the people.. It’s time to retire him…

  • john townsend

    With the likes of Mitch McConnell vowing to defeat any gun control legislation and then going on to force a deal on Harry Reid for essentially no changes to filibusters, the gov´t is no farther ahead on critical social issues than it was before the election. The 2014 mid-terms can´t come soon enough.

    With the likes of Mitch McConnell vowing to defeat any gun control legislation and then going on to force a deal on Harry Reid for essentially no changes to filibusters, the gov´t is no farther ahead on critical social issues than it was before the election. The 2014 mid-terms can´t come soon enough.

  • john townsend

    McConnell has singularly cost the nation immeasurable damage by openly vowing his number one aim was “to make Obama fail”, and then following through with scorched-earth political tactics to block every initiative to create jobs and accelerate the economy. He abused the filibuster so aggressively that it was used over 350 times in the last 3.5 years (where previously it averaged once a year!) just to stop any progress. It cost the nation billions in increased interest costs when the country´s credit rating was lowered. The toll of blocked legislation is breath-takingly appalling.

    What an impudent twit! This man should be fired! He doesn´t belong in gov´t.

  • TheSkalawag929

    As much as non Kentucky residents boo and hiss and jump up and down about getting McConnell out of office it doesn’t make one bit of difference.
    It’s entirely up to the people of Kentucky. Let’s hope that they are just as tired of the do nothing out of step with America Senator as the rest of the country is.

  • luvcats13

    Bet McConnell and Karl Rove feel like dumb a&$#* for ruining anti-Judd ads which surely helped her make the decision not to run. NOW the Dems will have a candidate which has less for them to attack. Sooo funny – GOP tried to meddle in Dem primary and they cause a more beatable candidate not to run. When Dems meddle in GOP primaries, they help push candidates THEY CAN BEAT (a’la Sharron Angle instead of Sue Lowden and Todd Aiken instead of ANYBODY else). GOP drive more beatable opponents out of the race. Oops – another GOP misstep!

  • Edward Canavan

    I like Ms Judd but in Kentucky she is probably UN-electable. In my opinion she performed a commendable service (1) rattling the cage with intentions to run spot lighting this race (2) bowing out to leave it to the pro’s.

  • old soldier

    great. maybe judd can fundraise for her. we need great democrats like the ones who fought the banks for unions, civil rights for all and grew our middle class.

  • Devin Vanderlee

    She’s a tax and spend lib like the rest of them. Must be proud that the Dem’s will have added 10 trillion to the national credit card of China by the end of O’blame someone else’s term.

    • kayatz3

      devin, you are so misinformed…save it for someone who knows nothing. The debt is actually going down the last couple years..

  • adoption revolution

    I’ll send her $$ and I don’t live anywhere near Kentucky….

  • judgeglenda

    ashley judd had a better chance at beating mcconnell.people in ky do not really like him and would like to see him go. he does nothing for ky just works on himself and advancement. i hate him.

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