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McConnell on a challenge from Ashley Judd: “We’ll worry about the election in 2014”

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn’t seem too worried Sunday morning about rumors that actress Ashley Judd might run against him in his upcoming Senate race.

The Senate Minority Leader told “Meet the Press” host David Gregory that the 2014 general election was still a long way off. “In the meantime, I’ve got my hands full trying to deal with all the issues that we’ve been discussing here this morning,” McConnell said. “We’ll worry about the election in 2014.”

A poll released by Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) last month found that in a hypothetical match-up, McConnell would lead Judd by only four points, with 47 percent of the vote to Judd’s 43 percent.

Judd first indicated that she was interested in running for Congress at an event a Democratic National Convention event in September. Judd was at the convention as a delegate – but not to Kentucky. Rather, the A Time to Kill and Double Jeopardy star was serving as a delegate to her home state of Tennessee. Given her ties to Tennessee, it was assumed that she was considering a run in the Volunteer state. Since then, rumors have spread that she intends to run in Tennesee’s neighboring state of Kentucky instead. Sources familiar with the discussions have reportedly said Judd is considering McConnell in 2014 or Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in 2016.

Although McConnell is the most unpopular Senator in the nation, according to PPP, Kentucky is still very much a Republican state, giving McConnell the advantage against Judd should she choose to run, despite her high profile. Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the state by 23 points in the last presidential election. In 2010, Rand Paul won his election with 56 percent of the vote, beating his Democratic opponent by 12 points. A poll from September gave McConnell at 51 percent approval compared with Paul’s 53 percent approval rating.

In an attempt to capitalize off of Paul’s success in the state, four months ago McConnell hired longtime Ron Paul aide Jesse Benton to run his reelection campaign in 2014. Benton also served as campaign manager on Rand Paul’s Senate race in 2010. McConnell was once though to be a prime Tea Party target in 2014, but with Benton and the Paul network on his side, it’s unlikely that the Tea Party would be able to mount a credible campaign against the five-term Senator before next year’s primary, especially now that Tea Party kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has retired from politics.

McConnell seemed genuinely unconcerned with a challenge from inside or outside of his party Sunday, however. Responding to a request from Gregory for his “reaction to some of the criticism from the right to this fiscal cliff deal,” McConnell reminded the NBC host of what ought to be the focus on Republicans serving in Congress over the next two years: the country’s unrestrained spending problem.

“Well, the election will take care of itself in 2014. The question is, what are we gonna do now?” the GOP leader said.


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