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27 Days to Election Day: Tennessee

Tennessee is safely a Republican state and there will be no drama as concerns the race for President. Obama will win the usual urban areas- Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. It is safe to give Romney the state’s 11 electoral votes.

There is a Senatorial race this year as incumbent Republican Bob Corker seeks reelection. First elected in 2006, he has in six short years assumed a high profile with the GOP ranks in the Senate. He was an early and frequent vocal opponent of the auto industry bail out despite the fact that GM had a plant temporarily shuttered in Tennessee. In fact, when the plant re-opened, he was roundly booed by the workforce. On these pages and others, Corker is sometimes criticized as being too compromising with Democrats in order to craft legislation in a bipartisan manner. However, that criticism has to be compared against the fact that when it comes down to brass tacks, his conservative credentials on crucial fiscal votes are rather sound. He will face Mark Clayton who defeated Larry Crimm whom the state Democratic leadership backed in their primary. Clayton has basically been disavowed by his party’s leadership claiming that he belonged to a “hate group” that was anti-gay. For his part, he denies the “hate group” characterization of the group, but will not disavow his stances against gay marriage arguing that they reflect the views of the people of Tennessee whom he seeks to represent. There was also a federal lawsuit filed after his primary victory claiming that the party could have and should have disallowed his name on the ballot since he “was not a Democrat.” In fact, he had voted for third parties and independents in the past. The liberal press is quick to point out alleged insurgent candidacies within the GOP, but apparently they exist in the Democratic Party also.

In the House elections, there should not be any surprises or upsets. All incumbents seek reelection in a congressional delegation that favors Republicans 7-2. After Election Day, that should remain the breakdown. In the 1st District which comprises the northeast corner of the state, medical doctor and incumbent Republican Phil Roe should easily win. Roe was an early and vocal supporter of Mitt Romney. His opponent is Alan Woodruff who has been counsel to the Tennessee Democratic Party. Perhaps the most conservative district in the state, it has been in Republican hands since 1881, so Woodruff is battling a lot of history. The same could be said for Troy Goodale, the Democratic challenger to John Duncan in the 2nd District which has been in GOP hands since 1867. For Goodale, this is his second run for the seat having lost in 1992. Duncan is considered the most fiscally conservative members of the Tennessee delegation. However, his votes on trade agreements likely cost him a committee chairmanship. To his credit, he stuck to his principles.

In the Chattanooga-based Third District, Republican incumbent Chuck Fleischmann will likely win. He has faced serious challenges in his primary rather than general election. In 2012, he had to overcome the challenge by Weston Wamp, the son of the former Republican representative from this district. He will face Mary Headrick in her first run for elective office. Unfortunately for her, she is a huge supporter of universal government-run health care and that issue is a non-starter in Tennessee. In short, she will carry the Obama torch to certain defeat. In terms of land area, the 4th District is the most expansive running from the northern to the southern border of the state. Scott DesJarlais represents this district for the GOP. He will face state senator Richard Stewart who has not exactly endeared himself to voters with his stance against mountaintop coal mining in the state. Thus far, DesJarlais has turned down a series of debates against Stewart although he left open the possibility of a single debate.

If Republicans wanted to pick up a seat, the nominally Democratic 5th District would be the target. This district encompasses Nashville and is represented by Democrat Jim Cooper. Although considered a fiscally conservative Democrat, his vote for the Obama stimulus hangs like a albatross around his neck. The problem is that Republicans cannot rally around a strong candidate here. This year, Brad Staats won the primary by 50 votes. It will be his first run for office. Just as the Democrats face historical challenges in the First and Second Districts, Republicans face an identical challenge in the 5th as no Republican has been elected from here since 1875.

Perhaps the most overall conservative representative from Tennessee is Marsha Blackburn in the 7th district. This district runs from the southwest corner of the state and snakes its way north taking in the suburbs of both Memphis and Nashville. Blackburn usually pulls more than 60% of the vote attesting to her popularity and the conservatism of the district. This year, she has come under some criticism for allegedly using campaign funds for hiring family members. She will face political neophyte Credo Amouzouvik for the Democrats.

Stephen Fincher represents the 8th District in the northwest corner of the state. He was elected when popular Democrat John Tanner retired in 2010. That year, he had to overcome several Republican challengers in the primary in what can best be described as a nasty race. This year, he has come under criticism from the GOP as being too beholden to the Republican leadership of the House. In particular, critics point to the fact he has received campaign contributions from John Boehner and Eric Cantor. This is probably the weakest Republican district in Tennessee. Unfortunately for the Democrats, they are sending first-time office seeker Tim Dixon against him.

Finally, there is the Memphis-based Ninth District represented by Democrat Stephen Cohen. When in the state senate, he was perhaps one of the most liberal members often championing civil rights legislation and minority rights. He is also credited with getting the lottery passed in the state. This is a predominantly black district although Cohen himself is white. George Flinn will represent the GOP in 2012 having lost his party’s primary in 2010.

There are no questions on the ballot this year.

In conclusion: There is very little drama out of Tennessee as Romney should easily pick up their 11 electoral votes and all incumbents reelected to the House along with Corker to the Senate.

Running totals thus far: Romney leads Obama in the electoral vote count, 146-108. Republicans lead in the Senate 32-16 while Republicans control the House 118-88.

Next: Kentucky

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