Updated: Superdelegate Davis slow to endorse Obama

Friday, June 13, 2008 at 3:33am
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Some Tennesseans wonder why Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-Pall Mall) is waiting until the Democratic National Convention in August before endorsing his party’s nominee for President. Courtesy of lincolndavis.com

The rise of Sen. Barack Obama, to become the Democrats’ presidential nominee has put most of his party’s faithful on his bandwagon — but not Lincoln Davis, a rural Tennessee Congressman with gubernatorial ambitions.

Davis (D-Pall Mall) is not yet endorsing the presumptive nominee in Obama, saying he’ll wait until the late August Democratic Party national convention.

In Davis’ sprawling 4th Congressional District — which ranges from as far west as Hickman County to as far east as the upper Cumberland Plateau — less than a quarter of Democrats in the largely rural district voted for Obama, the nation’s first African-American presidential candidate nominated by a major party, in Tennessee’s presidential primary.

Davis, a rural white Congressman, represents two-dozen counties — 21 in their entirety and three in part — including Williamson’s southwestern corner.

In February’s Tennessee Democratic primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) won 23 of those 24 counties, garnering 68 percent of the vote compared to Obama’s 23 percent. Obama won only Williamson County.

When examining the 21 counties resting entirely within Davis’ district, Clinton’s numbers rise from 68 percent to winning 73 percent of the vote. Obama won a meager 18 percent.

The situation presents perhaps a unique political situation for Davis. He is withholding his endorsement of Obama while he prepares to face a Republican challenge for his conservative “swing” district that overwhelmingly supported Obama’s rival.

Meanwhile, Davis has gubernatorial ambitions for 2010, in which Tennessee political history strongly suggests the Democratic strongholds of Shelby and Davidson counties with their large groups of black voters are a must for his or any Democrat’s aspirations for statewide office.

Fred Hobbs, a state Democratic Party Executive Committee member representing part of Davis’ district, said he understands why Davis is not endorsing Obama and is “skeptical” of the Illinois senator himself.

“Maybe [it’s] the same reason I don’t want to — I don’t exactly approve of a lot of the things he stands for and I’m not sure we know enough about him,” Hobbs said when asked why he thought Davis wasn’t endorsing Obama. “He’s got some bad connections, and he may be terrorist connected for all I can tell. It sounds kind of like he may be.”

Davis was not made available for comment.

His chief of staff, Beecher Frasier, said he doesn’t know for sure if Obama is “terrorist connected” but he assumes he’s not.

Frasier denied that Davis was withholding his endorsement of Obama for political reasons, saying Davis believed that was how the superdelegate system was intended to work.

“You look at his profile — he’s very independent,” Frasier said. “I mean he is a Democrat, but he certainly fits the district very well, and that’s his priority is the 4th Congressional District.”

In Tennessee, Davis is not the only Democratic superdelegate withholding their endorsement of the party nominee. U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Murfreesboro) and former Vice President Al Gore have also not endorsed Obama.

But earlier this year, Davis acknowledged he had been supporting a one-time Obama rival — John Edwards — who has now endorsed the presumptive nominee.

In February, Davis allowed that he had been supporting Edwards before the former North Carolina senator dropped out of the race. He called the remaining presidential candidates at that time “leftovers.”

Despite Frasier’s assertion, political considerations are likely figuring into leading Tennessee Democrats like Davis’ calculations, said John Vile, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University.

Vile said given Tennessee Democrats’ affinity for Clinton, there’s “fear” among some Democratic leaders like Davis to not become too supportive of Obama. He noted that polls currently have Obama doing well nationally and he could become an inspirational figure like Franklin Delano Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy.

But Vile said there’s a risk he could become another Democratic presidential candidate who didn’t appeal to average Americans, which may be keeping Davis at arms-length.

“It may be that he’s just sort of keeping some distance in order to make sure he’s not tied permanently to someone who might eventually be regarded as a second George McGovern,” Vile said of the Democrats’ 1972 presidential nominee who lost in a landslide to Republican Richard Nixon.

John Rowley, a Democratic political strategist working with Davis, said there was “no political calculus” involved with the congressman’s lack of an Obama endorsement.

“I don’t think anybody really makes themselves or breaks themselves by a member of Congress getting involved in a presidential race,” Rowley said.

During the 2006 election cycle, Davis didn’t allow much distance between himself and former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. when Ford was running for Senate. Davis raised his statewide profile as the chairman of Ford’s campaign, appearing with the charismatic Ford as he nearly became the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.

An election cycle later, another charismatic black candidate in Obama won handily in urban areas where African-Americans are more predominant. In Shelby County, for example, Obama garnered an overwhelming 70 percent of the vote. In Davidson, he received 60 percent.

To win in a close statewide election, Democrats historically must win the black vote in Tennessee.

Frasier said Davis’ chairmanship of Ford’s Senate campaign would help him with black voters despite his withholding of an Obama endorsement.

“He traveled this whole state with Harold,” Frasier said.

MTSU’s Vile dismissed the notion that Davis would have trouble with black voters in 2010 as a result of keeping distance from Obama.

“I think he has plenty of time to mend fences, assuming that he will probably eventually go with the Democratic candidate,” Vile said.

Randy Button, a former state Democratic Party chairman who has known Davis since at least 1994, said he doesn’t know why Davis is withholding his presidential leanings. But Button has had that feeling before, saying the 64-year-old farmer is “anything but predictable.”

“I’m not sure,” Button said. “Maybe he’s holding out for Obama to call him to be his running mate.”

UPDATE #1

The Tennessee Democratic Party issued the following statement Friday morning in response to this story:

“The Tennessee Democratic Party is united behind our party’s nominee, Senator Barack Obama. Mr. Hobbs is obviously misinformed, and his statement highlights the perpetual efforts of the Republican Party, especially here in Tennessee, to turn internet smears and highly offensive gossip into their party’s message against Senator Barack Obama as we head into the General Election. Instead of debating the issues, the Tennessee Republican Party continues to rely upon slanderous and salacious tall tales. They are borrowing from the playbook first written by Richard Nixon and employed in the race against Congressman Harold Ford Jr. Tennesseans of every political persuasion are tired of these tactics.”

UPDATE #2

Beecher Frasier, Chief of Staff for Rep. Lincoln Davis, issued this statement clarifying his position:

"No one in their right mind, including me, believes Senator Obama has ties to terrorism. It is truly ridiculous for anyone to try to make hay out of these comments."

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Lou, you wouldn't know what to laugh at unless some socialist, hate-mongering, Dim gave you the orders to do so. So you think Al Franken is funny? Also, speaking of comedians, gdiafante, you should keep your day job. Oh, sorry, I forgot, you're a Dim... for a moment, I thought you had a day job. LOLOLOL.

By: Funditto on 12/31/69 at 6:00

who let the kids in?i get this talk from my teenager, don't need it here, that's for sure. shine, go bug your mom.

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What's wrong gdiafante, can't stand to hear the truth? Gee, that's a really zinger.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

shine must be id's illegitimate b@astard child

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

or girlie's alter ego, one of the two.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

shine, you need to stop rubbing it, or you will go blind.

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Dims can't stand the heat? Can't argue on the merits, then when I stoop to your level with the insults and name-calling, you plead with me to leave. You guys are funny when you're not trying to be.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Rice didn't run because she wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell in the Good Ole Perv's party.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If Plant and id had a love child, it would be shine.Too bad he's too "dim" to actually see the irony of his posts. lol

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Name calling... I'm loving this. It takes three Dims to pile on the name calling, but not a one of you has made a coherent point since this started. Kind of like Washington DC. Hey, why are you guys so mad? Your party runs DC. Huh?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

shreinon, good site that you posted. thanks!

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

shine, you haven’t said crap, so stop patting your back. I doubt you could keep up with sap running down a tree, so don’t think you are bringing anything to the table here, twit.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

shine, i suppose you still believe iraq had something to do with 9/11, huh?

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'm sitting back and enjoying you emotional Dims try desperately to "attack". It's really funny. You guys get so emotional, er hysterical. And to think that I set you guys off. LOLOLOL

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Looks like shine's shaking a little, made a double post. Calm down...it'll be ok...lol

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

shine, exactly what argument regarding policies have you made?

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Look mommy, shine is stoking it again!!!

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This is fun. It's like playing with my two-year old, only she's smart.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

ah, must be that time of year again - time for the seasonal labotomies. shine, you're up!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

shine must've left to change his diapers.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Uh-oh, somebody made him cry, and now he is telling mommy on us!

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 6:00

LOLOLOL... got you guys all stirred up, and I'd love to play along. But I've really got to get back to my real work. It was fun though. Love to get the Dims calling names and showing how compassionate they are. You guys gave me the added pleasure of seeing how racist you are too. Buh-bye, and thanks.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Come back anytime you want boy and show us how “smart” you are!!

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It was fun, don't forget to brush your teeth before bed and say you're prayers...

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

**sigh**They grow up so fast...

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Come back and show you again? Geez, haven't you had enough. One thing about the socialists in this country... you never give up.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Had enough? Hell you haven’t shown us crap yet! Dumbarse!

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Yep...we had to put up a gait because our two-year old kept getting out of bed...Now shine...when you tell someone you're leaving and you don't leave, that's lying. You don't want to be a liar do you? That's a good boy...

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Wow, I just heard that Tim Russert died of a heart attack.

By: Funditto on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Work? Oh, a customer must have come into the video store...

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Another reminder to make every moment count.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

oh dam - Tim Russert died!

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

My condolences to his family.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Geez, that's unbelievable! I love that guy. I always watch Meet the Press every Sunday.

By: slacker on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Sad about Tim Russert, he tried to be fair to both sides.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

RIP, Tim. We'll miss you. I wish you could've lived to see the outcome of this crazy election.

By: NashvilleNeighbor on 12/31/69 at 6:00

"His chief of staff, Beecher Frasier, said he doesn't know for sure if Obama is "terrorist connected" but he assumes he's not."What a #^%&*@ idiot! Linc Davis will never get my vote!

By: morpheus120 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Sometimes I just wish that I could meet some of you right-wing, impotent, racist cowards in a dark alley so we find out who's really gonna "cut and run". But alas, the Cons are all chickenhawks who've never had to man-up in real life.How I pine for the good ole days when we could all settle our differences out on the playground at lunchtime. It really seems like the only way to give conservatives a fair shot at winning - they can't win with their ideas or their candidates these days...Anyway, have a great weekend, one and all!

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Sorry to hear about Russert. Not only was he readonably fair but he had good insights into the election process and what is good and bad about it.Note the 'corrections' or backpedaling or finger pointing in the latest updates. Wouldn't put it past the tngop, though, they're pretty slimy at times.

By: ManchesterDem on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Thank you Mr. Hobbs and Congressman. Now we know you are finally "getting it" that the people of your district DO NOT want Obama.The people on here that are saying you should step down are not people from your district. I have just left a voice mail at your office thanking you for speaking for the people of your district.There will be more to come out about Obama and I do not think it will be good.I campaigned for Harold Ford and maxed out my donations to him as my family has for three generations as members of the democratic party.This new party that Obama is trying take over while throwing out all the "old" democrats the ones Donna Brazile says the party does not need any longer is not the party that is representative of your district.Donna Brazile and Obama may not want us to be in their "new" party so okay we get it - we will take our "blue collar" vote in November and give it to Senator McCain.

By: bnakat on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Race is the centerpiece of the Rodgers' article that was supposed to be about Congressman Davis' reluctance to endorse pre-convention. This is the type of "objective analysis" we can expect every time Senator Obama is involved.Oddly, it seems that Democrats are stoking the racial component, but predictably blaming it on Republicans. Based on the vast majority of the above posts, rednecks are not necessarily the racists--at least not in this instance.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Predictably bna pipes up but says nothing as usual. Except to blame the article writer and the dems for making race an issue even though their presumed candidate is the one making racial history. At least he can recognize that his stance is as racist as he thinks it is.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This story started out being a non-story about Tennessee's DINO Congressman and his staff predictably having no enthusiasm for Mr. Obama. In a district where mental midget Van Hilleary could have spent his entire political life if he hadn't been starstruck and tried to rise above his level of incompetency. The updates made this story interesting, was Goober Hobbs a real source quote or a bogie sent in from the increasingly slimy TNGOP? And id's grandkids must be visiting, that wasted about ten linear inches.

By: Advn2rgirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Wow! Y'all are giving the state a terrible name. Ignorance-connected? For all I know, these guys must be. We cannot afford to have the New South represented by images of racism and foolishness. As my grandma would say, "Y'all need to cut that out."
"26521

By: fearrunsrampant on 12/31/69 at 6:00

By: NewYorker1 on 6/13/08 "Well, I consider Obama Caucasian American because culturally he's more Caucasian than African American"What causes you to conclude that Obama is more Caucasian American than African American

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Even sillier is his/her comment about baby boomers. Remember it was baby boomers who flocked to the antiwar and civil rights movements. Gen x,y etc are most often seen as greedy slackers.

By: chrish on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Has that jackass Fred Hobbs been fired yet?

By: citizenwells on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Obama 101Chicago/Illinois politics 101Obama Middle East ties 101Tony Rezko trial.Citizen Wells

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I do think this should send a msg to the DNC about what kind of people they should designate superdelegates. Lincoln Davis doesn't seem able to handle that kind of authority.

By: ritethewrong on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I was for Edwards as my first choice also. However, it is not important that endorsements are made now. We have our nominee and he is Senator Obama. It is time for all democrats to get behind him. It will be a tough road because republicans can't win an election fairly. They pretend to be christians, but are spreading lies as fast and as far as they can. These are not christians by a long shot. This is a critical time in our country's history. We must correct the problems that Bush and Cheney have brought on America.