02/25/2013 10:29 am ET

Ashley Judd Senate Buzz Has Some Democrats Convinced: 'I Would Be Surprised If She Doesn't Run'

Actress Ashley Judd has yet to announce a final decision about challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2014, but the ongoing speculation -- as well as her early maneuvers -- have already put some Kentucky Democrats on the bandwagon.

"I would be surprised if she doesn't run at this point," Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the only Democrat in Kentucky's congressional delegation, told ABC News in an interview published Monday. "My impression is this is something she wants to do, and she is now taking the time to make the contacts she needs to make throughout the state to try and generate commitments of support and in some cases fundraising."

Yarmuth has been an ardent supporter of Judd since her name was first floated as a potential opponent to McConnell, and his latest display of optimism appears to have been fueled by the movie star's recent moves.

Judd recently took a number of steps to lay the groundwork for a Senate campaign. In the past month, she's attended a dinner with top Kentucky politicos and held her first official meeting with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"She is certainly acting like a candidate, a potential candidate," Yarmuth told ABC News. Other Democrats, including Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, have also praised Judd for shaping up to be a "serious candidate."

But others remain highly skeptical of Judd's chances should she decide to enter the race, claiming that her record of liberal advocacy and current Tennessee residency could pose serious problems among rural Kentucky's more conservative electorate. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine summarized the concerns on Monday:

Let me translate this. Democrats are going to lose the Senate race pretty much regardless. But Ashley Judd would raise a ton of money across the country and spend it bolstering turnout across the state, which would help other Democrats, most of whom would be distancing themselves from Judd like she was George Clooney. You know Ashley Judd’s evil husband in Double Jeopardy, who seduced her and then exploited her for an insurance scam? The campaign to lure her to run is kind of like that.

Other Kentucky Democrats fear that Judd's candidacy would instead nationalize state and local elections, allowing conservatives to rally in opposition the actress and ultimately vote out other Democrats around Kentucky. Democratic consultant Jim Cauley told ABC News that some Democrats were so resistant to the idea of a Judd campaign that they'd encouraged him to use his position as President Barack Obama's campaign manager for his 2004 Senate race in Illinois to get the White House to ask the actress to step aside.



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