Monday, August 26, 2013

It's time to think about a Democratic Senate candidate.

As Sara Kyle decides whether to challenge Governor Haslam and his billions in the 2014 Governor's Race (and here's hoping that she DOES), there is more to think about for 2014.

With the announcement that State Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas has decided to challenge Senator LAMAR! Alexander in the Senate GOP Primary, it raises some questions that Democrats need to think about.  As we have seen in other states, when a moderate Senator such as Alexander is challenged in a GOP Primary and then defeated, it has enabled Democrats to elect a Senator, such as Joe Donnelly in Indiana, and has opened up possibilities for Michelle Nunn (yes, that's Sam's daughter) in Georgia.

Does Joe Carr have a real chance to knock off LAMAR! in the primary? Well, once we start seeing his disclosures and can determine if the Club For Growth and ALEC will put serious funding into Carr's campaign, then that could cause Democrats to rethink whether to field a candidate that can raise money into the race.

If no one else gets in, I will probably vote for Jacob Maurer; he seems to have the right stands on the issues for me, but I harbor no illusions about his ability to beat LAMAR!.  However, what if Carr really gets the wackos out to beat LAMAR! in the Primary?  The Old Guard GOP truly hates the Tea Partiers with a purple passion, and if the last member of the Holy Trinity that built the TNGOP (Baker, Thompson and Alexander) is upended, does anyone else think that their money might go to a Democrat worth voting for?

I think we may know the answer to this question before Christmas.  And, if it looks like Carr will make enough headway to beat LAMAR!, then we need to get someone ready to run.

Given that the type of person that OGGOPs might be willing to support in the event of a Carr upset, there's really only one Democrat who could get the support and funding from those folks:

Jim Cooper.

I know, I know.  No, I am NOT high or drunk or otherwise altered.  Under normal circumstances, I would be calling for him to be primaried from the left.  However, as you may have noticed, these are NOT normal circumstances, and if Joe Carr were to somehow snatch the GOP nomination from LAMAR!, there are a lot of GOP donors who would be pissed off enough to help Cooper.  This may be his best shot.

All of this, of course, comes down to whether the wackos in the TNGOP can knock off the ultimate OGGOP; no one thinks Cooper could take LAMAR! mano-a-mano.  However, if Carr proves to be a more formidable force than anyone believed, Cooper would be ready to send him back to Rutherford County.  It would also mean that a Democrat would win a Senate race for the first time in this state since Al Gore was re-elected in 1990.

All of which means Jim Cooper needs to think about this seriously.  As much as I have been at odds with him, he clearly would be our best choice in the event of a GOP upset.   I would absolutely hold my tongue and keyboard and try not to criticize him, knowing what the alternative could be.

And if we had Kyle and Cooper at the top of our ticket, it sure as hell might encourage Democrats to run for State House and State Senate positions, and that is needed.

Jim Cooper, take this under consideration, if you have not done so already.  If Carr can beat LAMAR!, you could move up and take another Senate seat from the GOP, which would be indeed a good thing.


Benintn said...

I disagree. I think it's time to think about getting people committed to vote against Lamar. Also, have you noticed how much money and energy is being spent on the reactionary right, trying to force Lamar to become more conservative? Bottom line for me is I'm opposed to Lamar and to Joe Carr. I wonder what happens if Lamar loses the GOP primary and runs as an independent.

Steve Steffens said...


I don't believe Lamar would be allowed to run as an Indy if he lost the primary; he would have to file as an Indy from the beginning. If he did that, it would be the same as saying he could not win a GOP Primary. In a 3-way race, that would favor Carr, sadly.

Do you think Cooper, or anyone else, could beat LAMAR! head to head in a general election?

I don't, not now. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.

Mark Rogers said...

Steve, Cooper is a thoughtful and hardworking Congressman as well as a bright and decent fellow.

Having said that, he isn't a terribly good candidate. He had the advantage of being the wealthy son of a popular former Governor when he went to Congress the first time. When he tried to run statewide against live opposition, he got the electoral equivalent of the last Alabama vs Notre Dame game.

Granted 1994 turned out to be a Republican tide {so to speak}, the fact is that he lost by roughly three times the margin by which Sundquist beat Bredesen and twice Frist's majority over Sasser.

His election to Congress in Nashville in 2002 was more of a tribute to the mediocre opposition than to Cooper's campaigning skills I followed that race pretty closely and if Sheriff Gayle Ray had not allowed Emily's List to come in and make the race about Cooper not being liberal enough on abortion, she might have won the race.

Put simply, there is no reason to think that Cooper could reinvent himself as the sort of inspiring candidate needed to defeat a popular incumbent who has strong roots in the Republican bastion of East Tennessee, is well-respected by long time residents and who is the beau ideal of anyone who has relocated to Tennessee in the last 30 years.

On the other hand, I know several ambitious liberal Nashville Democrats who are probably inventing rumors about Cooper's 'excellent chances' to win at this very moment. Even if Cooper heads to Balaclava for another charge, they appreciate the chance to pick up his seat in Congress.

Steve Steffens said...

I wasn't speculating about a Cooper-Alexander race. Do you really think Carr could beat Cooper mano-a-mano? Do you really think the OGGOP would get behind Carr?

Mark Rogers said...


Since no Democrat not named 'Phil bredesen' has won a statewide election since Sarah Kyle was re-elected to the old PSC in 1992, the question should be 'Can Cooper beat Carr?'

To do that, Cooper would have to run strong in East TN, something that might be problematic with the partisan divide in American elections.

Cooper would also have to run very well among the new people who are the core of the Republican vote in Middle Tennessee. The chances of that happening are, I think, unlikely as Bart Gordon's hasty departure demonstrated a decade ago when the area was less heavily red.

Besides, all Carr or Alexander really needs is to get someone to drive around and around Cooper's events in a red pickup truck until the candidate starts suffering flashbacks to events in November 1994.

Anyway, it is all hypothetical since even though Carr is a good campaigner, he isn't Alexander. Alexander has lost one race in Tennessee. And that was in 1974, long before immigration to the Sun Belt started turning Tennessee purple and then dark red.

I believe the vast majority of Republicans will support our nominee. An other interesting question though is how would Cooper play among traditional conservative Tennessee Democrats?

Would Cooper embrace President Obama and pledge to vote with him on values issues and foreign policy?

Over the last three elections the presence of President Obama has not been a plus for Democratic candidates. Look at the 2008 Presidential primary and where Republicans have been making gains since the fall of that year. Traditional rural and other blue collar Democrats have either voted Republican or stayed home in state and federal elections since he became President.

I suspect that Cooper would have a tougher time with some of his base than Carr.

Steve Steffens said...

One, you underrate the dissent in your own ranks over the Tea Partiers.

Two, The OGGOP will at best give lip service to Carr. Given that East Tennesseans have in fact voted for Democrats for statewide office in the past, Cooper would not have as much trouble beating Carr there as he would in suburban Middle Tennessee.

I do not think he can take LAMAR in a general, but Carr? Just look at Indiana, as well as what will happen in Kentucky and Georgia next year.

Overrate Carr at your own peril.

Mark Rogers said...


1) I think I have a pretty good handle on the scope of party dissent. I am confident Alexander wins by more than Fred beat Cooper. Call it 77% to 23%.

2) East TN went for McWherter over Dunn in 1986 because of Dunn's daring to stand up to Jimmy Quillen when he was Governor. Quillen is gone.

Bredesen ran well in East TN but he ran as pretty much a Republican. You know how critical of Bredesen the left was when he was Governor. If he runs as a pro-Obama Democrat, he won't fare as well there now.

Carr is conservative but he is not the guy from Indiana or Missouri or the not very bewitching O'Donnell.

Nate Lenow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MemphisPI said...


Agree about the Tea Party. They seem to hate someone they view as a RINO more than a Democrat. So some perhaps many would sit at home during the General should their candidate not make it.

Great article in the Memphis Business Journal (or was it the Daily News) months ago where Lewis Donelson, the Father of the Tennessee GOP, says basically he does not recognize the current party and they probably would not have him as a member. So yes should the Tea Party out Alexander the old guard would sit it out hoping for a return to normalcy.

What about Bob Clement? Although with Sara Kyle running for Governor some may view this as a return to earlier times.