Skip to comments.Lamar Alexander ahead in polls and fundraising; Senate opponent in uphill challenge
Posted on 10/13/2008 12:31:51 PM PDT by SmithL
WASHINGTON -- In an economy that appears to favor Democrats and in a year when Republicans are expected to lose seats in the U.S. Senate, one of them almost certainly will not be Tennessee's.
Popular two-term governor Lamar Alexander is seeking re-election this year with a low-key campaign reminding voters that he has proposed concrete solutions, sometimes opposed by President Bush, even as he's climbed to the third spot in the Senate's GOP leadership.
His opponent, Nashville lawyer Robert D. Tuke, is lesser known and stresses Alexander's partisanship and ties to Bush and, most recently, to an unpopular vote bailing out the financial services industry. Tuke points to the Republican Party's long association with deregulation and more recent history of lax enforcement of the financial services industry. A Marine and Vietnam veteran, Tuke has served as both treasurer and chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party.
In the only recent poll in the race, on Oct. 1, Alexander was up by 24 percentage points. Tuke's internal polling indicates that the Democrat is gaining name recognition and was down 38 percent to Alexander's 50 percent, but that was before what Tuke spokesman Chris Song called "the real fallout" from the financial crisis.
Alexander's chief of staff and campaign manager, Tom Ingram, said that while everyone is concerned about the financial crisis, there is no indication the economy will be a "game changer" in the Senate race.
Political scientist John R. Vile, dean of the honors college at Middle Tennessee State University, said that since Alexander has had such name recognition over so long a time and retains a strong identity with the state, he'll be hard to beat. But he said that if the Dow Jones industrial average drops 5,000 points today, "all bets are off."
Beyond the polling, Alexander is also way ahead in fundraising. The Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which keeps track of the influence of money in politics, noted in an article Oct. 2 that Alexander is one of 25 incumbents who have raised more than 10 times what their challengers have raised. In his case, that's $7.2 million to Tuke's $440,681, but that was before former vice president Al Gore hosted a fundraiser for Tuke Friday night.
Alexander began airing a television commercial last week with scenes of Tennessee's natural beauty and a narrator saying, "Lamar doesn't really care if you're a Republican or a Democrat -- doesn't play gotcha."
Tuke's approach had been low key until recently, focusing on the economy and stressing his military background -- he was a Marine combat veteran in Vietnam -- and support from veterans.
Song said the campaign is airing radio ads in five markets and will be up with a television ad "pretty soon." In a recent radio ad, Tuke says he'd fire Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., and says he's against "blank checks for taxpayer-funded bailouts." In a recent statement, he began calling Alexander "giveaway Lamar."
Tuke also has been critical of specific Alexander votes, including his vote against $8 billion for highway and bridge repairs, noting that Tennessee has more than 1,000 deficient bridges.
Alexander backed the $700 billion bailout despite 9-to-1 calls to his Senate office opposing it, according to Ingram.
Tuke tries to make the case that Alexander is closely allied with the unpopular Bush, but on one major issue that is clearly not the case. Last year, Alexander pushed for the president to implement the findings of the Iraq Study Group, coming close to insulting the president by telling him from the Senate floor to take it down off the shelf "and use it for something other than a bookend."
Occupation: U.S. senator; former U.S. Education Secretary (1991-1993); former two-term Tennessee governor (1978-1987); former president of the University of Tennessee (1989-1991), and two-time candidate for president (1996, 2000)
Education: Vanderbilt University (1962); New York University School of Law (1965)
ROBERT D. TUKE
Occupation: Partner in law firm Trauger and Tuke, Nashville; former chairman and treasurer of the Tennessee Democratic Party; Vietnam veteran and Marine
Education: University of Virginia (1969); Vanderbilt University Law School (1976)
Keep getting this guy confused with “Lugger”.
Lamar Alexander should take TN with no problems. TN elected Bob Corker as the only new GOP Senator in 2006. I remember that election; turnout was huge.
We had a mini-Obama here in TN a couple years ago with Harold Ford Jr. Ford had the college and black vote tied up, and the media bias, but still lost by a few points. I even thought he’d probably win, but the Bradley Effect and GOP turnout got him.