Could non-Senate candidate Ashley Judd be biding her time for a better race opportunity? One Kentucky Democratic source who is close to Judd says yes.
“I do think there have been a number of people who have said to Ashley this was not the race and the Rand Paul race [would be] the right race,” this source says.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is up for re-election in 2016 and per Kentucky law (unlike other states) a candidate cannot run for both Senate and president of the United States simultaneously. Paul is widely believed to be considering a 2016 presidential bid, but even if he does not, this same source says Judd has been counseled by both Washington, D.C., and Kentucky advisers that this is the better race for her to enter “in order to give her time to establish residency, secure the grassroots, and that is impossible with the current timetable.”
Jonathan Miller, one of Judd’s advisers in Kentucky as well as the former state treasurer, told ABC News Judd made the decision very recently.
“She called me in the last couple of days to let me know, she called her early supporters,” Miller said. “As little as a week ago we were talking strategy and big plans. It’s quite a recent decision to pull out, but from the beginning she has always harbored doubts … she’s been carefully deliberating and during the deliberation process she came to realize it would be a gruesome couple of years, and she didn’t want to put herself and her family through that. One thing she did say is, she was energized by the whole process, energized in a much greater way.”
Miller expects her to get involved in Kentucky public service and to campaign “quite vigorously” for whoever enters the race against McConnell.
Miller said a group of “really close friends, family advisers, guardians of Ashley’s interests, D.C. professionals, and Kentucky activists like myself” helped her make the decision and gave her “a lot of feedback about what a difficult personal race it would be as well.”
So, did speculation that the 34-year old Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to enter the race help make Judd’s decision? Miller says no.
“I think the feeling has been from the beginning that Grimes would not run against Ashley and now she will make her own decision. I don’t think there was ever the prospect of a serious primary.”
Miller says it truly came down to Judd’s realizing what a “difficult and grueling campaign against McConnell” it would be and that “weighed against her the most.”
Shortly after Judd announced, via Twitter today, that she would not be running for the Senate, long-time Kentucky Democratic strategist Dale Emmons, a former campaign aide to Grimes, said the “person most disappointed today is Mitch McConnell.”
“She caught him flat footed and Karl Rove is trying to get his jaw off the floor!” Emmons told ABC News.
Emmons helped Grimes get elected in 2011 and said she has the “skill set to be successful.”
He says if she decides to go for it “a lot of us will be behind her, enthusiastically supporting her,” but it’s a “decision she has to make, ultimately it’s a very personal one for her and her husband to decide.”
Another Kentucky Democratic source who was in the Judd camp points out there is “a lot of pressure on Alison Lundergan Grimes now.”
Grimes has publicly said she would make a decision when the Kentucky state legislature wrapped up its session. That happened yesterday at midnight.