« CT-02: DCCC Poll Shows a Dead Heat | Main | Florida Primaries Open Thread »

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TN-Sen: Ford's Silver Bullet

Posted by James L.

I haven't blogged much about the Tennessee Senate race so far this cycle, mostly due to the fact that I've never viewed it as particularly competitive--or even potentially competitive. Harold Ford, Jr. has been on the air with an ever-changing array of (impressive) campaign commercials for a long time, and yet his polling numbers remained flatlined in the low 40s (at best) against his potential Republican opponents during the primary. That's starting to change now that Tennessee Republicans have selected former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker in a nasty three-way primary. Fragments of the conservative Republican base in Tennessee have been less than enthused over a nominee who was on record as a supporter of abortion rights in his first run for the Senate in 1994 (he's since changed his tune), but discontent among the conservative base in Tennessee is not what's making me feel optimistic about Ford's chances this November. Instead, it's Bob Corker's absolutely galling record of incompetence as mayor of Chattanooga. DailyKos diarist and Ford booster R o o k has more here and here. But if you want the 30 second Sparknotes version, just watch this:

In 2001, when Bob Corker took office, understaffing of Chattanooga's 911 emergency repsonse center was already a problem, with 8.8% of 911 calls going unanswered. Over his tenure, that rate steadily increased, hitting 14.9% in 2004 (Corker's last full year as mayor). In 2005, the year in question for the DSCC's ad, unanswered calls hit 16.9%, or 31,000. Now, Corker's campaign is raising an absolutely ridiculous defense, saying that blaming Corker for the gross shortcomings of 2005 is "misleading" because Corker's term expired four months into that year. Well, excuse me, Bob, it was your failures as mayor that caused the 911 emergency response rate to drop during your term and beyond. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press (03/30/06):

A retired Chattanooga police chief said former Mayor Bob Corker thwarted efforts to improve 911 operations by refusing to fund more communications positions.

"I asked for communications officers in every budget, especially under the Corker administration, and each time it was denied," former police Chief Jimmie Dotson said this week from Houston, Texas, where he now lives. "(We) spent many, many, many hours battling the Corker administration asking for communications officers."

Not only that, but Corker's budgetary irresponsibilites as mayor actually resulted in fewer 911 operators on shift at any given time:

In March 2004, Lt. Tara Pedigo wrote in a Chattanooga Police Department internal memo that there was not "sufficient" staffing to prevent unanswered or abandoned emergency phone calls.

Eight months later, Lt. Pedigo, who since has retired, announced that minimum staffing levels would be lowered, as she had been instructed to cut back on overtime within the communications division, according to a document.

There are some things that a mayor just has to do. Ensuring a properly staffed and managed emergency response system is one of them. Under Bob Corker, a bad 911 system in Chattanooga got even worse, and the lives and saftey of thousands of Tennesseans was put at risk. To be blunt, the buck stops with Bob. If he can't ensure life-or-death services to his constituents as mayor, he has no business being in the United States Senate, let alone any public office, anywhere.

Ford has now been handed an absolutely potent line of attack to make against Corker, and the NRSC is scrambling to get this ad off the air with the threat of completely frivolous lawsuits against the TV stations airing the DSCC commercial. National Republicans have been saying for months that their incumbents are safe because they will employ their strength on "local issues" to survive low approval ratings for President Bush and his Republican Congress. If they want to play that game, fine. With Bob Corker's appalling record on local issues now on the ballot, Harold Ford has an excellent opportunity to prove that Democrats can play the local game and win.

If I were Ford, I would ride the issue of Bob Corker's reckless incompetence relentlessly until November 7.

Posted at 06:52 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Tennessee | Technorati

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


I always thought this would be our No. 6 and I may have been right after all.

Posted by: D in FL. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2006 12:45 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

So its OK to blame Clinton for things that occurred long after he left office, but its not OK to blame Corker for things that occurred shortly after he left office?

Posted by: bosdcla14 [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2006 09:55 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

My take on this race is that it could potentially winnable, but only if the Democrats look weak elsewhere. In the 21st century American South, conservative voters will only vote for a Democrat if they don't believe the nation will shift leftward because of it. We saw it across-the-board in 2004, most notably with Brad Carson, who I'm convinced would have beaten Coburn if Oklahomans weren't worried about the Democrats winning the Senate.

With Harold Ford widely reported as the guy who could hand the Senate over to the Democrats, Corker will have a perfect talking point to elevate his chances no matter how bad his campaign is and no matter how good Ford's campaign is. In other words, if the national prognosis begins to look gloomy for Dems in late October, Ford could still conceivably have a chance, but if the Dems' current insurgency (or rather alleged insurgency) grabs the headlines, Corker will win....and probably win big.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2006 11:26 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Anybody who thought the Dems would take the Senate in 2004 must have been absolutely insane. Just look at the open seats that we had to defend, all in the deep south. We started out behind in NC, SC, Georgia, and Daschle had trailed for most of 2004. 2004 could have been a good year for the Senate Dems, but instead they decided to hand NC, SC, FL, LA, and GA(big deal, just Miller) to the Republicans. Why didn't the Dems try to convince Edwards in NC to stay on the ballot(exit polling showed that he would have beaten the Republican 53-46, even while Kerry was losing the state 55-44), and Hollings in SC, Graham in FL, and Breaux in LA not to retire? This would have made FL, SC, and LA a lock for the Dems. The money the Dems used to protect these open seats could have been used to help shore up Daschle, and help put Tony Knowles over the top in Alaska. This strategy would have given the Dems a gain of three Senate seats rather than a loss of four, and they would control the Senate 52-48 right now rather than have a 55-45 minority. Whoever headed the DSCC in 2004 must have been quite the moron to not convince those four Democrats to delay retirement for their party.

Posted by: Sean [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2006 10:21 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Sean, I'm not agreeing with much of your analysis here. First of all, Erskine Bowles led by 8-10 points in every poll in North Carolina right up until a month before the election when it was revealed he used to work for Clinton. Similarly, Daschle had consistent 3-5 point leads over Thune until the final weeks of the campaign.

As for Edwards, he went all out to get on the Presidential ticket in 2004 because nobody had any confidence in his being re-elected to the Senate in North Carolina. I'm not sure what exit polls you're referring to, but pretty much everyone was more confident in Erskine Bowles' chances of retaining that seat than Edwards. The Dems had to twist Fritz Hollings' arm to get him to run again in 1998. Another six-year term in 2004 would have been really tough to convince him into....and my guess is he would have lost anyway with the political environment of 2004. I'm not sure what the situations were for Bob Graham and John Breaux, but convincing people set on retiring to sign on for another six-year term is much easier said than done.

We had an ideal situation in Alaska in 2004. If Tony Knowles couldn't beat Lisa Murkowski with the resources he was given (keep in mind that Alaska is a very cheap state in terms of advertising, so more money wouldn't have been likely to make much difference), there was likely nothing that could have saved Knowles.

Hindsight is always 20-20. All things considered, the Dems did a good job in Senate candidate recruitment in 2004. They just had a horrible map and the battleground races in Southern states all shaped up similarly to how I expect Tennessee will shape up in the 11th hour this year. Hopefully, I'm wrong.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2006 11:50 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mark, you may be right. I have still feel that we should have won in FL, LA, AL, and OK in 2004, that way we would have at least stayed even. I almost think that we would have done better in the Senate in 2004, if it was like another Reagan/Mondale race where everyone believed that Bush would win in a landslide. That way, more people voting for Bush would have pulled the lever for a Democrat at the same time, just for the sake of a divided government. 2002, was also a year that we should have done better. I don't know if you remember the races, but Shaheen should have won in New Hampshire and Strickland should have won in Colorado and we should have held on in Minnesota. Im still not convinced that Karl Rove didn't have something to do with the mysterious death of Paul Wellstone. Hopefully we won't get shafted like we did in 2002 and 2004 this year.

Posted by: Sean [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 01:44 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Sean, 2002 was in many ways an uglier night than 2004 as far as the Senate races were concerned, because I was confident that some of the races you cited (NH, CO) would go for the Dems and we'd hold the Senate. I could tell a couple of weeks before the election that the Dems would lose most of the battleground Senate races. I suspected the GOP would win eight out of nine on election eve, except I predicted a Dem victory in Alaska rather than Colorado.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 08:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mark, in 2002, what were your predictions on the House races? I was quite worried even before 9/11 because the Republicans had dominated the redistricting process in 2002 and had taken away nearly a dozen Democratic seats in the northeast and upper midwest and placed many of them in areas in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida that were more hospitable to the Republicans. In the Senate, was where I was really sucker punched in 2002. I was nearly certain that we would take Colorado, New Hampshire, and Arkansas, hold Minnesota, Georgia, and only lose either Missouri or South Dakota. The polls the night before the election showed this outcome. If we weren't napping while the GOP was shoring up their GOTV, I think we could have held the Senate in 2002.

Late in 2004, I thought we would keep Florida and Louisiana, and gain Illinois, Alaska, and Colorado. I predicted that we would have only lost a seat. I didn't know what would happen with the House in 2004, since we were guaranteed a loss of four with the Delaymander in Texas.

The bar for me in 2006, is to put us back to where we were before 2002 in the House, and back to where we were in 2004 in the Senate. This would require a 10 seat pickup in the House and a four seat pickup in the Senate. Do you think we can do it?

Posted by: Sean [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 09:38 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment