Ashley Judd had told at least three political allies in Kentucky that she was planning to run for the Senate, which she didn’t deny at first because she was receiving steady support from voters.
In fact, she had also discussed with former Sen. Wendell H. Ford, her fast-developing plan to seek the Democratic nomination to oppose incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.
“She asked me what I thought and I told her,” Ford said.
Ford, who is revered by Democrats, was friendly but noncommittal. And remained so.
In the weeks after that talk, he had little to say publicly. Privately, others in the party expressed doubt and opposition, on the theory that Judd was too liberal, too “anti-coal” and too Hollywood, and that she had not lived in the state for many years despite her loyalty to University of Kentucky basketball.
If Judd was going to make a go of it, she needed the blessing of at least a few of the higher-ups in the state’s Democratic establishment. She didn’t get the Godfather, and she didn’t get any of the other party elders outside Louisville who could have helped her avoid a killingly divisive primary in May 2014.
Her champions, including Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, thought that Judd’s entrance into the race would “clear the field,” but there were too many indications that in fact would not have been the case.
Although former President Bill Clinton was publicly neutral, his decision to meet with and counsel a Judd rival, 34-year-old Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, in Owensboro earlier this month had an impact.
The assumption, at first disputed by Clinton allies, was that he was backing Grimes.
Although Judd had the backing of Louisville-based supporters of Barack Obama, led by former Obama finance chief Matthew Barzun, the president’s advisers in Washington were openly hostile to the idea of her candidacy.
One of her closest political advisers had described her two weeks ago as “95 percent,” adding that only the timing of her declaration of candidacy was yet to be decided.
However, she does want to run in 2016, Judd will need to win over the Wendell Fords of the world first.