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Actor Andy Griffith, longtime supporter of Democratic causes, dead at 86


Actor Andy Griffith died this morning at his home in North Carolina, NBC News reports. He was 86.

Griffith may have been most famous for his roles in "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock," but he also played a prominent role in politics.

Most recently, he starred in an ad promoting Medicare and touting the president's health-care law.

And that wasn't the first time Griffith's name came up with regard to politics. Democrats always dreamed of Sen. Griffith. 

In fact, Griffith was so seriously considered to run for the Democratic nomination in 1990, that the polling outfit Mason-Dixon tested him against then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R).

Griffith led Helms by nine points, 48-39%, in that 1989 poll, a wider margin than former Gov. Jim Hunt (D), who had lost to Helms in a nasty 1984 race. Hunt led Helms in that poll 50-42%. (Hat tip to our friends at National Journal's Hotline.) (Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, who is black, wound up being the Democratic standard bearer. And race became a central issue. That was the election where Helms ran the "Hands" ad - below.) 

"North Carolina has lost its favorite son," Democratic North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement. "Andy Griffith graciously stepped into the living rooms of generations of Americans, always with the playful charm that made him the standard by which entertainers would be measured for decades. Throughout his career, he represented everything that was good about North Carolina: a small town boy and UNC graduate who took a light-hearted approach to some of the attributes he grew up with and turned them into a spectacularly successful career. And regardless of where that career took him, he always came back to North Carolina and spent his final years here. In an increasingly complicated world, we all yearn for the days of Mayberry. We all will miss Andy, and I will dearly miss my friend."

The Raleigh News and Observer wrote of Griffith in 2010: "Griffith has been a closer for Democrats, an unimpeachable saintly figure who fills his rare political spots with folksy charm and obvious references to his role as a small-town North Carolina sheriff."