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TN: Native Son Out, But Turnout Could Still Break Record

By Krissah Williams
Tennessee has become one of the most hotly contested primaries in the Republican race. But among Democrats, Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama by more than 20 points.

The state was Fred Thompson country until the native son turned politician and actor dropped out last month. Before that, other candidates mostly stayed away. On the eve of the primary, Thompson's late departure has left Republicans divided and with an unknown number of early ballots already cast for him, Thompson could still be a factor.

All the candidates swept through Tennessee last weekend vying for support. John McCain, who has landed some of Thompson's backers, stumped at a school in Nashville. Mike Huckabee spoke at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis Sunday. Mitt Romney ate breakfast at Pancake Pantry in Nashville this morning.

According to a Southern Political Report poll taken after Thompson and Rudy Giuliani abandoned their campaigns, McCain leads the pack with 33 percent of the vote, followed by Huckabee with 25 percent, Romney with 18 percent and Ron Paul drawing 9 percent.

On the Democratic side, the poll showed Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama 59 percent to 36 percent in the state where her husband and Carthage-raised Al Gore handily won elections in 1992 and 1996. Earlier this year, Obama planned to pull resources from Tennessee and forgo running campaign ads, effectively ceding it to Clinton.

"With the $32 million haul in January, he just went back up," Wade Munday, communications director for the Tennessee Democratic Party, wrote in an e-mail.

Tennessee is one of the states with a sizable African-American population, and black voters are expected to comprise about a quarter of the Democratic primary electorate. In recent weeks, black voters across the country have been favorable to Obama. Already political endorsements have broken along racial lines with former governor Ned McWherter and much of the state's Democratic establishment backing Clinton. Obama has the support of all but one of the state's black state legislators.

Still singed by Harold Ford Jr.'s loss in his 2006 senate bid amid controversial campaign ads paid for by the Republican National Committee that featured a blonde white woman saying "Harold, Call me," Democrats want to pick a winner.

Bob Tuke, a former state Democratic Party chairman who is backing Obama, told Time magazine that Clinton probably has the advantage because some voters are "reticent about backing a black."

Turnout is expected to be high, possibly nearing a record set in 1988 when Gore first ran for the Democratic nomination and more than 800,000 people voted, said State Election coordinator Brook Thompson. More than 320,000 Tennesseans cast early ballots, nearly triple early voting in 2004.

By Washington Post editors  |  February 4, 2008; 8:19 PM ET
 
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Comments

I hate to say it but racism still cuts deep in Tennessee and much of the South. They don't much like Hillary there either. The Dems should continue to write off the South and focus elsewhere in the general. If one or 2 states fall their way let it be a nice surprise but I sure wouldn't count on it.

Posted by: MarcMyWords | February 5, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

To put it more positively, the nation needs someone with sound, rather than ideologic, economic judgment, integrity, vision, and a philosophy of government that embraces, rather than divides, all Americans.

I agree with Romney that McCain in spite of his protests declined to endorse the surge or the concept of the U.S. remaining in Iraq, while Romney and Senator Lugar have always seen our commitment as potentially long term. Their language was completely different from McCain's who was hedging his bets when he thought the tide was turning against our presence in Iraq. And I see no evidence of principle or integrity on the part of McCain, who said what he needed to get elected in Arizonia and is doing the same now.

Romney was right about immigration. McCain pontificated but wouldn't even pay a firm using legal American labor, fairly revealing about his commitment to his words.

The American people might go for Romney because they sense authenticity. Right now, that's the Republican Party's only hope. And I'm not saying I support Romney. His future will depend upon his selection of running mate, for in that he will signal the country the direction he truly plans to head.

(I forgot to mention Thompson... he's another one taken down even in the Republican Party by his embrace of a social conservative agenda.)

Posted by: enzospice | February 4, 2008 9:12 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the questions laplumelefirmament

Posted by: sachinvaikunth | February 4, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

My letter to earth-loving Democrats:

Well it's almost time now. Here's my quivering argument for whatever it counts.

Let's first perspectify the Clinton legacy. Obama supporters are very tearful about Clinton's affair with Lewinsky and his hurtful lying. There are politicians, you know, who are both, pristine in private life and make competent presidents. Let's take a historical shot at this Audacity of Hope. JFK was a serial philanderer, poking every hole in sight. He gave us Bay of Piglets and near Apocalypto. Then, LBJ fatally perpetuated Vietnam. Nixon - criminal. Carter - exquisitely incompetent. Reagan of soaring national debt/Iran Contra/S&L crises. George Recession Sr - no, he was in bed only with the Saudis. Then, Bill Clinton. Wipe away the scum thrown at your faces by the republican propaganda, and if you attained puberty a bit before 90s, you will see quite easily, Bill Clinton's were the best presidential years in recent history. Who compares?

Let's get to near history and Hillary's vote for the Iraq war resolution. Our country had just been devastatingly attacked. Such was the patriotism that a Democratic Senator who left most of his body parts in the fields of Vietnam was knocked out of the senate for not being patriotic enough! 29 Democratic senators voted for the resolution. Many of them, like Kerry, were finally persuaded that the vote will be used primarily for getting Saddam Hussein to come clean. They might not have trusted him. Bush was going to war anyway. Only, we might have given Republicans a 60 vote senate. Friends, Hillary Haters, Monday Morning Quarterbacks, Backseat Drivers, what would have happened then?
Meanwhile, on a hilltop, far away from the battlefield, there was a Senator in the safe confines of a very blue state. His state not devastated like New York. Sears Tower still towering. He made a fine anti-war speech. Simultaneously, he was lustily voting Present in his state legislature instead of taking a stand on radioactive issues to avoid providing propaganda material to the Republicans. Political expediency, it's called. Clinton haters are very intimate with this phrase. If Obama had to be politically expedient in the Bluest of Blue states, what, you must think, he would have done in the jingoistic pressure cooker of the 2002/03 senate? When we did not know where and when again we might be hit again. One anti-war commentary given from the distant, safe, liberal confines of IL should not a president make!
Predictably, once Obama was in Senate, his voting was identical to democrats like Clinton. He raised no hell, showed no leadership. Why should he? You see, voting against war funding is a somewhat unpopular thing. You can't do that and hope to become President. And you can't just say Present, you know. You have to vote.

So now we have a tight race. Hillary might very well lose. No doubt, Hillary supporters will have to show up.

Obama supporters also feel about his electability. Good night, good luck and sweet dreams. We wouldn't let Hillary lay a hand on Obama. No, we must be all tea/coffee only. If you criticize - you are racist. Dearest, I am going to go out on a very dangerous limb here. I have a feeling, Republicans won't be so sensitive. No, I think they will have a thing or two to say about that. *Despite* all the hype, Obama is not doing dramatically better than Hillary against McCain. How will it look after Republicans have worked him over? To those who insist that our gem, Obama is still unknown - he has spent aver $120 million dollar introducing himself. Media has been all ga-ga about him. Can it really get better for him? You know, Fox, i.e., conservative media won't keep giving him a pass. They won't mind asking him about his drug use. Pox on them but they will - and much more. Though, in my personal opinion they ought not to bother with that. McCain's strong, maverick character and years of experience will be quite enough. To a left of center and right of MoveOn org type of a person like me, when I put Obama next to McCain, I see a shrub next to a Titan. Obama's experience? He has organized in Chicago - shame on me if I deny him that. In a general election, Comrades, that only works if the public has a seizure while rolling on the floor in laughter. Bird flu, global warming have nothing on the effect Obama's record-setting lack of experience might have on the general population.

No, wrong, I am not a purple Democrat. I thought Howard Dean was a better candidate than Al Gore/John Kerry. I was devastated when he was knocked out because he dared to be emotional/spontaneous. He had such a strong executive experience but the media didn't like his laughter. He had no style. In America we must have Style.

I doubt if an undecided voter comes all the way here. And I don't have the Audacity of Hope to believe I can make any impression on those who love Obama. But try I must.

Posted by: vishalg_99 | February 4, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

...First ask yourself these questions:

Do you agree with Hillary's vote in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman ammendment?

Do you agree with Bill Clinton's bombing the pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan which eventually killed tens of thousands due to lack of medicine?

Did you know that Hillary voted in favor of No Child Left Behind in 2001?

Did you know that Hillary did not in fact vote against the bankruptcy reform bill in 2005 (as she claimed in the recent Nevada debate). It turns out she didn't vote at all.

Do you agree with Hillary's appointing Sandy Berger as one of her National Security advisors? Berger plead guilty to stealing and destroying classified intelligence documents (they were related to 9/11).

Do you agree with Hillary's having Mark Penn as one of her chief strategists (a major voice for her campaign) who represents Blackwater as well as a huge uniform supplier that refuses to deal with the Culinary Workers Union and that he has a history of being a known union buster?

Do you agree with the Clinton's support of NAFTA?

Do you agree with Hillary's voting against increasing fuel economy and the production of renewable fuels like Ethanol?

Do you agree with Bill Clinton's selling attack helicopters to Israel used to kill "terrorists" and many innocent civilians?

Do you agree with Hillary's mandated health care plan that to this day leaves out the consequences for middle to lower income families who can't afford the rates she is proposing?

Do you agree with Hillary's statement in regards to social security that the majority of Americans in this country make over 90,000 dollars a year?

Do you agree with Hillary's voting against providing seniors with a prescription drug benefit?

Do you agree with Hillary's support and defense of lobbysists?

Do you agree with Hillary's support of current bankrupcy laws that continue to hurt lower income Americans and small businesses?

Do you agree with Hillary's voting against medical liability reform so that doctors are not forced out of practice for junk lawsuits?

Do you agree with Hillary's opposition against a level playing field so that people who pay for health insureance out of their own pocket get the same tax break the big corporations get for providing health care benefits to their employees?

CONT.

Posted by: laplumelefirmament | February 4, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

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