Probably the brightest spot for the Republicans of the 2006 election was Bob Corker’s victory for Tennessee’s Senate race. Being very familiar with this race and knowing many Republican candidates, officeholders and operatives, this is why I think that Bob Corker won this race:
- Tennessee is a very conservative state. It is ironic that Tennessee, which contributes a disproportionate number of people to the war in Iraq, turns around and votes as the most “pro-war” state.
- It is not a classically “Christian Coalition” state where the “religious right” did their usual “taking a stand” (and the party over.) Conservative Christian people are woven into the Republican establishment rather than forcibly grafted in, which is why the party came back together the way it did after two classically Christian candidates (Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant) lost in the primary. (This loss was avoidable; if one of them could have put his ego aside and dropped out, they would not have split the vote and money.)
- Corker’s general election campaign started out as a fiasco, with poor ads and an unfocused effort. Corker had the wisdom to dump his campaign people and get people in who knew what they were doing and let them run his campaign properly. His ads improved along with everything else, including his poll numbers. His ability to change course for victory needs to be noted in the White House.
- Corker did hammer at Ford’s voting record. The image that this campaign was strictly a series of negative personal attacks doesn’t tell the whole story. Corker had the advantage in that he could run against an opponent with ten years of votes in the House (when he bothered to show up, which he frequently didn’t) while Corker had been in executive positions, both in government and business. Ford’s voting record was atypically liberal for the state and Corker made the most of that.
- Ford’s attempts to portray himself as an “ordinary Tennessean” couldn’t withstand the hammering of a competitive campaign. As Bob Novak hilariously pointed out, every time Ford mentioned the Lord he lost 1,000 votes. That’s part of Ford’s record problem. We took issue with that ourselves during the campaign.
- Ford’s greatest gaffe was what I call the “parking lot debate” on 20 October when he crashed a Corker press conference in Memphis. That did not sit well with people here, especially independents. It was the beginning of his downward slide to defeat.
Important note to Anglicans: Corker is an Episcopalian. But his former Rector actually appeared in Harold Ford campaign ads. Nothing like gratitude. The Episcopal Church is leaving you! Maybe it’s time for the AmiA, Bob…