Does Ashley Judd have the chops to defeat Mitch McConnell in next year’s U.S. Senate race in Kentucky? Already the possibility of a Judd-McConnell matchup has spawned a mini-tornado of media speculation, not to mention a Karl Rove-sponsored attack ad. If and when Judd actually tosses her hat into the ring, the race would automatically become the marquee political story of 2014.

For a non-traditional candidate like Judd, a Senate run poses both opportunity and risk. A realistic assessment of her prospects begins with an acknowledgement of the challenges she faces, particularly in three key areas: show business, roots, and politics.