frank_talk (2006-40)

Corker Reeling

Forget attacking Junior as a liberal, Bob, tell us who you are

by Frank Cagle

We now discover that both political parties have nominated Senate candidates who are inept public servants hell-bent on destroying America. From what I’ve been able to tell from the advertising, veteran Congressman Harold Ford Jr. has been letting illegal aliens across the border and former mayor/developer Bob Corker has been giving them jobs.

We are learning all sorts of disturbing things about the candidates courtesy of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. We would all be better off if these two organizations decided to go spend their money elsewhere and let our candidates run against each other. It isn’t going to happen because control of the U.S. Senate in the coming years may depend on what happens in Tennessee.

It is the consensus of political analysts, reporters and much of the public that Corker’s campaign has been reeling since the primary. Corker is facing an aggressive dynamo the Republican Party took too lightly going into this election cycle. Ford’s energy has led Corker to refer to him of late as being “berserk.” Junior is a candidate who happens along maybe once a generation, which explains why an African American named Ford from Memphis is running neck and neck with a Republican mayor in red state Tennessee. It turns out being African-American, being a Ford and being from Memphis are not the automatic three-strikes and you’re out that Republicans thought it would be.

Here’s an irony for you. I’ve only seen one candidate in my lifetime of covering politics who had the skill, the instincts and the energy of Harold Ford Jr. His name was George Corley Wallace, the former governor of Alabama and sometime populist presidential candidate.

If you needed any proof the Republicans are scared stiff, look no further than the announcement last week that Corker’s campaign would be taken over by Tom Ingram. Ingram is leaving his post as chief of staff for Sen. Lamar Alexander to shake up the Corker campaign effort. He will put the campaign headquarters in Nashville, where it belongs, and get on with the race. Ingram has long been the chief of staff for the Golden Rule Party, and between political assignments he

One suspects Ingram will have the clout and the good sense to stop this scorched-earth ad policy and start to focus on Corker’s record. He may also put Corker on Meet the Press against Ford, a forum Corker has avoided, making him look like a Senate candidate not ready for prime time. If you can’t go toe to toe with Tim Russert, do you belong in the U.S. Senate?

Corker needs to demonstrate he can do the job, and one of the qualifications is the ability to represent our interests on national television shows. His refusal to appear on cable news shows and on Meet the Press , in stark contrast to his opponent, make him look like a wimp. How often have you seen his fellow Republicans Howard Baker, Fred Thompson, Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander on Meet the Press ? (Not to mention Democrats like Albert Gore Jr.) Tennessee has a tradition of producing national leaders, from Andy Jackson to James K. Polk to Estes Kefauver to Albert Gore Sr. Corker needs to demonstrate he is in the tradition of Tennessee political leaders who are also national leaders. It’s our tradition and we expect it.

The latest polls showing Ford close, or even ahead, in the race should be taken with a grain of salt. You have to remember the “Wilder factor.” (No, not that Wilder.) Gov. Doug Wilder was the African-American governor of Virginia. He was the frontrunner, often polling as much as 13 points ahead of his opponent. He did win the governorship—by a margin of one percent. This phenomenon, which has shown up in other races around the country, demonstrates that people lie to pollsters about African-American candidates. If Ford wins in Tennessee, he will have to have a very healthy lead in the polls going into November.

Corker needs to do something to convince East Tennessee’s conservative voters to turn out and vote for him. Corker ads attacking Ford for being a liberal are a waste of time. Conservatives need to hear why Corker isn’t a liberal. Corker needs to get back on message and tell us why he ought to be a senator. Conservatives can find plenty of reasons not to vote for Junior. What they need to know is why they should vote for Bob.

Frank Cagle is a political analyst and the editor of Knoxville Magazine . You can reach him at frank@frankcagle.com .