We just watched Randy Boyd and Diane Black blow a combined $35 million in the Republican primary for governor. With less than a week to go, I think at this point we are watching Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn waste upwards of $70 million on advertising attacking each other in the U.S. Senate race.
Ask yourself how many of the attack ads from each side you truly believe to be true and whether any of them changed your mind.
The special interest groups and the political operatives for whoever wins this race will claim credit and we can’t disprove that their brand of half-truths and slanted presentations didn’t carry the day. But the Senate races have been nationalized. Over 40 years ago, House Speaker Tip O’Neill said all politics is local, but that is no longer the case – for Senate seats at least.
Voters everywhere know that control of the Senate is at stake and after watching the close vote on Justice Brett Kavanaugh they realize how important a single vote can be – regardless of which side you were on. National polls show that control of Congress is the major issue in this election year. The Democrats say the central issue is health care. Ask Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean how well that issue is working for him. His proposal to expand Medicaid and Republican Bill Lee’s refusal hasn’t moved the needle at all.
The Kavanaugh vote has started to fade somewhat as an issue. But every time the television news shows the caravan of thousands of refugees marching to the U.S. border it fires up Republican voters. Mobs harassing Republican senators or cabinet members incense Republican voters.
Early voting numbers are setting records for a midterm election. If the high number was limited to Knoxville it might be that both Republicans and Democrats are turning out. And that may be true. But if you look around the Second Congressional district in places like Grainger Country and Jefferson County, the high turnout in early voting is not because people are turning out to vote for a Democrat.
All this leads me to think that Blackburn has the wind at her back in Republicans wanting to keep control of the U.S. Senate and Bredesen isn’t able to reach out to the Republican voters he needs. He may be facing a headwind he never had a chance to overcome.
And it also leads me to believe that Blackburn should have run a campaign stressing the need for Republicans to keep the Senate and avoided sleazy attack ads. It’s like the Bill Lee example never happened. But outside PACs have been responsible for most of the attack ads and candidates allegedly have no control over independent expenditures.
Down ballot: What about down ballot in Knox County? There are two state House races to watch closely. To no one’s surprise state Rep. Eddie Smith, a Republican, is opposed by his perennial nemesis, former state Rep. Gloria Johnson. The district has a lot of Democrats and if they come out to vote for Bredesen and Karl Dean it may give Johnson an edge. The vote has been very close in the past. It could be an upset in the making.
The other House race to watch is Republican state Rep. Martin Daniel opposed by Democrat Greg Mackay. Mackay is the most experienced Democratic candidate running. He has been involved in running campaigns or serving as election commissioner most of his adult life. He is also well known. The district, however, is very Republican. In fact, it was so stuffed with Republicans during the last redistricting it made Smith’s district more Democratic, thus giving Democrats a chance to win the seat. (As Johnson did once.)
Not all other people’s money: During the last month of his 2002 gubernatorial campaign Phil Bredesen put $3 million of his own money into the pot. This time there has been some inflation. He’s contributed $7.5 million of his own money to his Senate campaign so far. It’s not Randy Boyd or Diane Black level money, but it’s still a good chunk of change.
Former Fox fox fired: When NBC agreed to pay Megyn Kelly over $20 million a year to leave Fox News and do a show for the Peacock network, I pointed out some obvious pitfalls. Fox viewers would not follow her to NBC and NBC viewers either didn’t know who she was or they didn’t like the idea of hiring a Fox anchor.
Her ratings have not been good. She couldn’t even match the third hour of “Today” that she replaced. NBC has been looking for an excuse to get rid of her for some time. She gave them one. She didn’t see what the problem might be in white people wearing blackface for Halloween. Her NBC colleagues, who haven’t liked her being there, jumped on it and the controversy led management to cancel her show.
She is supposed to be getting over $60 million in a buyout. But will she? NBC could argue she was fired for cause and negotiate the figure down.