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Senate Outlook for 2008

Can Democrats Take Advantage of the Turf?

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Outlook: Solid Republican

April 14, 2008 Update:

Someone should bring Tennessee Democrats up to speed on what seems like a fairly self-evident principle of politics: When you’re trying to unseat a strong incumbent, it’s not a good idea to have seven candidates duking it out until a mere three months before the general election. That’s right, seven Democrats are competing for the chance to knock off Republican incumbent Lamar Alexander, but we won’t know who gets the daunting task until early August. Since current Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen has announced he won’t run for the seat, former state party chairman (and Barack Obama’s state campaign chairman) Bob Tuke appears to be the front runner. Alexander, however, will be waiting with more than $2 million cash on hand, and a full term of incumbency under his belt. The Volunteer State gave us an election with high drama all the way down to the very end in 2006; we doubt it will be so kind in 2008.


While Fred Thompson has been acting on Law & Order and toying with the media over his presidential bid, Lamar Alexander has been holding down his old Senate seat for Tennessee and the Republican Party. His seats on several prominent committees, coupled with a lack of Democratic challengers, make Alexander appear to have a near-lock at this point.

Alexander replaced Thompson after Thompson’s retirement in 2002, edging out conservative Congressman Ed Bryant in the GOP primary, and Congressman Ed Clement in the general election. He currently sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Rules Committee, along with several others. In early 2007, he announced he had the votes to become Minority Whip for the 110th Congress, but lost by a single vote to Trent Lott (R-MS).

The Democrats have stayed away from any official announcements as of yet, though several lurk in the wings. Harold Ford, Jr. , who narrowly lost to Bob Corker in 2006, expressed interest in late 2006, but has since backed off those comments. Another potential candidate is current governor Phil Bredesen, who became the first candidate to carry all 95 counties in his 2006 reelection. Former state Democratic Party chair Bob Tuke or businessman Mike McWherter, the son of fomer Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter, are two other candidates that could have the personal finances necessary to fund a strong campaign. Considering how close Ford made things in the last Senate election, if the Democrats put their best foot (or candidate) forward, the Volunteer State could remain interesting all the way down to the wire.


Bob Tuke – Democrat – former state Democratic Party chair

Mike Padgett – Democrat – Knox County clerk

Lamar Alexander (I) – Republican – current Senator