Maybe our gubernatorial election will be more exciting than we thought.
Despite the polls and conventional wisdom giving Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam an odds-on chance at claiming the big house on Curtiswood Lane in November, it’s not stopping Jackson businessman and son-of-Ned-Ray, Mike McWherter, from bringing out the big guns.
In fact, the biggest howitzer in the Democratic Party’s arsenal swung through Nashville last Thursday to support the beer man from Madison County. Bill Clinton — perhaps the last Democrat to earn Tennessee’s electoral votes for a long, long time — fired up the blue troops in a raucous rally at Hall of Fame Park.
While McWherter has been roundly criticized for failing to energize Tennessee Democrats, the Man from Hope (Ark.) still has rock-star power. Verily, you could see the people swoon from as far away as
McWherter has a long relationship with the Clintons. His father was something of a Southern Democrat guru when Clinton was making his bones in Little Rock, and the candidate said Hillary Clinton showed him how to burp a baby.
Meanwhile, Haslam rolled out his fundraising schedule for the next month: a statewide blitz of big-ticket events, with such Tennessee Republican luminaries as Sens. Corker and Alexander (and beloved former first lady, Honey Alexander), and insiders like Jimmy Wallace and Scooter Clippard. His Nashville event, like McWherter’s, will feature a Bill — former Senate Majority Leader Frist.
The two strategies reflect conflicting problems. McWherter hasn’t exactly lit a fire in the state, so who better than a wildly popular fount of charisma like Clinton? Haslam faced criticism for not being Republican enough, so he rolls out name Republicans and behind-the-scenes kingmakers. Of course, the mayor (for perhaps the first time in his life) is playing from behind, not having a go-to Republican president from Tennessee. Andrew Johnson wasn’t technically a GOPer, and he’s not available for campaign appearances these days.
If polls are to be believed, Nov. 2 will be a snooze. Nashville election-night mainstay WTVF-Channel 5’s Pat Nolan has probably already called the thing for Haslam. But maybe the run-up and the attendant star power will give us all something to talk about anyway.