You know the old saying that “politics is show business for ugly people?” Forget it. Ashley Judd is running for Senate in her home state of Kentucky. She probably doesn’t have a prayer of winning—her vocal support for abortion rights, for example, probably won’t play well in a deeply conservative state. But she starts off with deep pockets and high name recognition, and she certainly has the attention of Kentucky Republicans whose job it will be to defeat her.
We should be used to this by now. The most celebrated president of modern times—Ronald Reagan—made movies with Bette Davis before running for office. Jesse Ventura and Al Franken have both won statewide office in Minnesota. We all know how Arnold Schwarzenegger spent the last decade, and Fred Thompson keeps bouncing between politics and character acting.
What’s weird about that list above? Only one Democrat. Hollywood may be a cesspit of anti-American liberalism, but it sure churns out a fair number of Republican candidates. Those winning candidates had usually passed the peak of their Hollywood careers and were casting about for a second or third act to keep them relevant. Given those trends, who should we expect to see run for office next?
• SOMEBODY FROM THE 1986 CAST OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: This was the cast that saved SNL from destroying itself and made icons out of Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman, but who knew that Dennis Miller, Victoria Jackson, and Jon Lovitz would end up being so legendarily cranky and conservative in their politics? One of these folks is bound to make a run to become the reactionary version of Franken, but are any of them savvy enough to actually win a race?
• TONY DANZA: You know what? Here’s somebody who is positively Reaganesque—a reputation for being a bit of a dim bulb, yet a relentless worker, and the rare celebrity whose reality show was a public-minded effort that probably enhanced his esteem and reputation. He’s a Republican who has talked about running for mayor of New York.
• PATRICIA HEATON: Best remembered as the suffering wife on Everybody Loves Raymond, her current ABC sitcom—The Middle—is both a tribute to “real America” and a smartly comic take on working-class life and frustrations. She’s a big fan of Rush Limbaugh, but so (officially) is everybody else in the Republican Party. The show’s not going to last forever. In five years, she’ll either be an officeholder, or have her own syndicated conservative talk radio show.
• BEN AFFLECK: Let’s not leave this list entirely to Republicans. But let’s face it—the Best Picture win for Argo means that Affleck’s probably going to be hanging around Hollywood a little longer than seemed likely after Gigli. But he’s toyed with running for office in Massachusetts, and by all accounts is reasonably knowledgeable about the issues.
• EVA LONGORIA: Desperate Housewives is over. Longoria has thrown herself into politics with seriousness of purpose. Outside of Heaton, she seems like the person on this list most likely to enter politics in the near future. And she’s relatively young—just 37—meaning she could have a long career ahead of her.
HONORABLE MENTION: WARREN BEATTY: He was the original Hollywood political dilettante—only it turned out he wasn’t such a dilettante. He spent the 1970s and 1980s near the center of Democratic politics, and came very near running for president in 1999. How would history be different if Beatty had faced off against George W. Bush the following year? At the very least, the White House would’ve been a much sexier place.