Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tennessee Governor Race

Race of the Day

September 28, 2006
40 Days Until Election Day

Tennessee Governor

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

First term Democrat Governor Phil Bredesen is another one of the several moderate Governors of both parties, who are currently enjoying high popularity and appear very likely to win reelection. While the Volunteer State has shown a pronounced preference for Republicans in most recent elections, Bredesen, who lost a race for Governor in 1994, and who won a nail biter in 2002, is a heavy favorite for another term.

For many months, there was some angst in Tennessee GOP circles that nobody credible appeared willing to step up to the plate to take on the Governor. Many openly called for one of the three formidable Republican U.S. Senate candidates (which included the man that Bredesen beat in 2002) to shift gears and run for Governor, but they all stayed in that race. Thus, Republicans took it as good news when State Senator Jim Bryson was a somewhat late entry into the race. Bryson, who would go on to take the GOP primary in a fairly easy fashion, had been viewed as a potentially strong challenger. While Bryson may be in line with the state on the issues, and have other political skills, Bredesen’s popularity just appears to make the race too uphill. A couple of recent polls have put the incumbent’s lead at right around 30 points. Bredesen will win rather convincingly but he should not be expected to win by that massive of a margin.

With most voters in Tennessee and around the nation, more focused on the state’s open U.S. Senate contest, this race has not really gotten much attention. There was some buzz a few weeks back though when Bredesen suddenly became ill with a mystery disease that was later attributed to a tick bite. The Governor became very sick and sought treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. During the course of his illness, he temporarily relinquished the duties of his office. After not being seen in public for many days and not having released too much information to the public about the Governor’s condition, there was some talk as to what it could mean in regards to the election if Bredesen took a turn for the worse or was unable to rejoin the campaign trail. The designated successor according to state law as Governor would have been an octogenarian State Senator who held the post of Lt. Governor. Bredesen has since begun made a recovery from his ordeal and there do not appear to be too much doubt that he will be able to continue serving as Governor or as a candidate for reelection. Based on the polls, the voters certainly do not seem to have much concern. If anything, he might have gained some support due to the sympathy factor.

As the campaign approaches the final month, Bryson is on the air running negative ads against Bredesen in an attempt to use hot-button wedge issues such as illegal immigration against the Democrat in conservative friendly Tennessee. Bredesen is fighting back on the issue of immigration and others and positioning himself as a moderate to conservative Democrat. Bryson stands to make up a bit of ground as some more Republicans will be naturally inclined to “come home” on Election Day and vote for their party’s nominee, but with his ability to make significant inroads among GOP voters, Bredesen is at least approaching the “safe” category.

Bryson campaign link:

2006 Governor races predicted thus far: 13 D, 19 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 21 D, 25 R