A Politico article last night revealed more about Mitch McConnell’s internal push poll of Ashley Judd, showing that telling voters that she is a foreign, baby-killing monster increases McConnell’s lead over her to 20 percent.
Sensing that McConnell appears to be growing increasingly obsessed with her potential candidacy — no longer just relying on Rand Paul to be his attack dog — Ashley Judd released this comment through her spokesperson:
“Ashley has yet to decide about running for the United States Senate,” said Cara Tripicchio, the Judd spokeswoman. “She is honored by the incredible encouragement from her fellow Kentuckians and the national interest, including Senator McConnell.”
Or in the words of Walter Sobchak, “Calmer than you are, dude.”
While the McConnell campaign for some reason thought leaking this internal poll would make him appear stronger, the national political media is beginning to see right through this. Here’s what Josh Kraushaar at the National Journal wrote:
Despite the bullish tone of the memo, the very fact that McConnell’s team is spending money to game plan strategy against the actress suggests they are taking her candidacy very seriously. In 2008, Republicans working for then-Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman presented similar strategy memos mocking the candidacy of then-comedian Al Franken, who later knocked off the incumbent.
But it is also evident that their concern lies more with McConnell’s own standing, and less about Judd’s political potential. The poll showed McConnell job approval rating at 51 percent, decent but hardly commanding numbers given that it’s an internal poll. The campaign hired Rand Paul’s former campaign manager Jesse Benton well before the 2012 elections ended, in order to head off any prospective primary challenger. And it doesn’t take an internal poll to understand that Judd’s cultural liberalism would be a very tough sell in the Appalachian heartland. The bigger concern for McConnell is if a more conservative Democrat, like Rep. Ben Chandler or Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, decides to jump in the race.
Concerned and vulnerable. There’s the new conventional wisdom of McConnell’s campaign.
And that last point quoted above needs emphasizing. Not the silly Chandler reference (good God), but Grimes. You can be 1 million percent sure that McConnell polled how he fared against Grimes — whom I believe he is more afraid of — but those numbers are obviously missing from public media consumption. The fact that McConnell’s non-push-poll numbers show the same margin (4 percent) with Judd as the PPP poll show that all of those other challengers polled are also within striking distance, and McConnell lacks the ability to paint Grimes as a foreign, baby-killing, solar panel-toting, monster.
The narrative on this race as changed, and McConnell has no one else to thank other than his campaign manager Jesse Benton. And McConnell is stuck with Benton for the long haul, as ditching him would immediately rile up the Paul/Tea/Liberty base in Kentucky so much that it might stir up a primary challenger.
In the meantime, expect to continue watching McConnell sweat like Judd in ‘A Time to Kill.’