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Karl Rove’s Ashley Judd problem

When activist and actress Ashley Judd recently announced she was mulling a run for senate against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, Karl Rove revealed a strategy to undermine her. It would be one he’d used before with women candidates. “We’re making fun of her,” he explained.

Give him points for honesty. The key concept behind his super PAC’s first attack ad of the new election cycle was indeed to belittle the high-profile, politically-active Judd. Rove and American Crossroads GPS dropped $10,000 to “stick a pin in her balloon,” going up with a satiric Judd for Senate campaign spot that portrays her as an airhead, a “leader who knows how to follow,” and dismisses her as a silly Hollywood liberal.

Far from a unique personal shot at Judd, the attack is part of a long pattern of Rove attacking women in troubling ways rhetorically distinct from his campaigns against male candidates.

One can say that he is an equal opportunity smear artist, but there is a context and a history to Rove's anti-Judd salvo. He routinely resorts to anti-woman insults and insinuations that cut deeper than his usual attacks –  characterizing women in politics as having stereotypically negative female traits (subject to hysteria, too emotional, weak and weepy, bleeding heart, flighty or frigid, and lesbian).

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