Friday, October 03, 2014

Race of the Day- Tennessee U.S. Senate

32 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Safe Republican

While he has left the Senate Republican Leadership team, Tennessee's Lamar Alexander indicated early on that he would seek a third term as a Senator in 2014. That might have been somewhat hard to believe for those who remember his Presidential campaigns, especially the one from almost 20 years ago, where the then former Governor campaigned strenuously on behalf of Congressional term limits and promised to "cut their pay and send them home."

Representing a reliably Republican state though, Alexander took early steps to fend off a right-wing primary challenge, as he was not expected to be seriously contested by the Democrats in a general election. For a while, it looked like the Senator's fundraising efforts and political outreach to conservatives would allow him to escape a serious Tea Party like effort against him, but somewhat late in the game, State Representative Joe Carr, switched over from a winnable Congressional primary against an endangered GOP incumbent and into the Senate race against Alexander. While Carr would go on to be endorsed by Sarah Palin, he remained a heavy underdog going into the August primary. Nonetheless, he seemed to pick up steam towards the end and won nearly 41 percent of the Republican vote. Alexander was held under 50 percent, which was an historically weak performance for a GOP incumbent in Tennessee.

One might wonder what might have been the circumstance had some other candidates not been on the ballot to split the anti-incumbent vote, but national Republicans probably would have come to the rescue for "Lamar!", much in the way they did this cycle for Senators such as Pat Roberts, Mitch McConnell, and Thad Cochran to some extent. Winning the Republican primary put Alexander a serious step closer to a third term, as Democrats in Tennessee have been weakened to such an extent that they have found it difficult to recruit candidates or mount credible campaigns in statewide elections over the last couple of cycles.

The August primary for the Democrats was very close, but turnout very low, with two lawyers who had never held political office battling it out.  The party establishment seemed to favor the younger Terry Adams, but the nomination went to Gordon Ball by just over 2,000 votes. The third and fourth place candidates in the race, who were far less organized campaign-wise, combined for nearly 28 percent of the vote. Mr. Ball will have a nice title to add to his biography, but there are not nearly enough "blue" voters in the state to give him much of a chance against the well-funded and well-known incumbent. Insert your own joke here. At least, he is a far more credible challenger than his party's candidate for Governor.

For his part, Alexander does not seem to be ignoring his opponent or taking anything for granted. His campaign material seems to attack Ball a lot more than I would expect for what should be a mismatch. I doubt they really have any internal polls that concern them. Alexander just may want to get his money's worth in what could very well be his final campaign.

As is the case with several other races across the country this year, some voters on the right will refuse to vote for Alexander out of spite against the incumbent they wished would have lost a primary, and that will keep his numbers somewhat down, but there is not much the Democrat nominee can do to really move the "Ball" on the strong Republican playing field of Tennessee.

 Alexander campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far: 12 D (7 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup), 20 R (9 Safe, 4 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
Overall predicted thus far: 46 D, 50 R (net Republican gain of 7)


At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Conservative Democrat said...

Considering that Alexander won 28% of African Americans in 2008, there's a 50-50 shot he'll maintain that number again.

At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Conservative Democrat said...

My home state of Texas is almost HERE. I have a LOT to say on your next post.


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