The Passing Political Parade

Why moderates win, Gingrich invisible, gun lobby doesn't want to wait

Thoughts on the current political scene:

—So a rich guy decides to run for office. He calls all his friends, they call their friends, and they pony up a pile of cash. He then begins the race as the perceived "front runner." The rest of the race is about whether anyone can catch him.

Since the rich guy is a Republican, but not being well versed in Tea Party and movement conservative rhetoric, he is viewed with suspicion by the "base." He is considered a moderate by the rank-and-file Republicans and is viewed that way by the media—which thinks that's a sensible view for the general election.

But the rich, moderate Republican is blessed by the fact that a party full of conservatives will produce more than one opponent. The conservatives split the vote allowing the "moderate" to win a plurality and thus the nomination.

So who did I just describe? Bob Corker? Bill Haslam? Or Mitt Romney?

All of the above. Neither of the three has achieved above 50 percent in a Republican primary.

Twas ever thus. It's how the Republicans nominate losing presidential candidates like Bob Dole and John McCain. Or winning big-government Republicans like George Bush.

So is it any wonder the Republican establishment in Tennessee is supporting Romney in the upcoming primary?

—Newt Gingrich has made it clear that his strategy for a comeback is to hold on until Super Tuesday and win Southern states, like Tennessee, which will put him back in the game. The Tennessee primary is March 6, two weeks from Tuesday. Have you seen any sign of Gingrich?

Gingrich's state co-chair, state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, has certainly been in the news. Has this helped turn out the vote for Gingrich? The only poll I've seen in Tennessee has Rick Santorum leading.

—There was a time when a president presenting a budget to Congress was a big deal. Newspapers would add a couple of extra pages and bring people in overnight to present a mountain of information, with charts and graphs. But in those days TVA still got federal funds. The Appalachian Regional Commission was more prominent. And of course money for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 in Oak Ridge. The amount of money in the budget had a direct effect on local employment and projects.

It's almost laughable now. You can download President Obama's budget on your smart phone. But Congress hasn't passed a budget in over 1,000 days. When Obama sent a budget over last year, it didn't even get a vote. If it gets one this year, it will be the Republicans putting it up so they can vote it down.

—The gun lobby has certainly found friends with the Republican takeover of the state Legislature, with a passel of gun bills passing the first year. This year the Republican leadership has decided to concentrate on cutting taxes—it is an election year after all. What no one wants to talk about, of course, is that if they run gun bills there is the specter of former committee chair state Rep. Curry Todd, who is facing charges of a DUI while in possession of his permitted gun. Guns in bars will be back in the news. The leadership has assured members that they will consider more gun rights legislation next year.

But if they expected the gun lobby to be reasonable they were wrong. They went to state Rep. Eddie Bass, a Democrat from middle Tennessee and a former sheriff. Some conservative Republican members are grumbling and signing on to help Bass with the bill. It allows gun permit holders to keep their guns locked in their cars while at work even if the business owner objects. It is likely that most of the House Republicans would vote for the measure, though some question the logic of interfering with the private property rights of business owners. So it is likely to be a nasty little fight among House Republicans, though they will try and keep it out of the public eye. It is, after all, an election year.