USA Journal 2012 #8: Tennessee

by Jackie_South on August 23, 2012

Tennessee’s fifth congressional district

For the eighth installment in my series of posts as I travel around the US in this election year, I’m in Music City.

It is hard to believe that it has been five years since George East and I had a couple of nights carousing through the music bars of Nashville.  What’s changed?  Well, the Greyhound station has moved further out for one as the site of the old one has been swallowed up by the ongoing construction of an airport terminal sized conference centre downtown.

I love Nashville, but I’m going to start with a grumble: whilst its downtown itself is very pleasant to walk through, as a town it is not a pedestrian-friendly place, with construction sites closing pavements without warning all over the place – it would be awful for wheelchair users. It is also terrible for public transport: there is no train (other than a short commuter service) and the Greyhound from Louisville was pretty dire: an hour and a quarter late, which is pretty unheard of for buses (but not trains).

Given that Republican governors in Mid-West states like Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio turned down Obama’s stimulus package passenger train infrastructure improvements, perhaps Tennessee should make a pitch for the money?  There are existing lines that would make a route connecting Nashville and Louisville to Atlanta and Chicago – indeed, there was a passenger service that ran the route up to 1979.

Anyway, transport moans to one side, let’s get to the politics.

Presidential race

Despite Clinton winning here twice, this state has drifted out of contention.  Here’s the margins in the presidential elections in the last twenty years:

  • 1992: Clinton lead 4.65%
  • 1996: Clinton lead 2.41%
  • 2000: Bush lead 3.87%
  • 2004: Bush lead 14.27%
  • 2008: McCain lead 15.06%

In case you need reminding, that 2000 contest when the Republicans first nosed ahead was the election when the Democrat candidate was Tennessean Al Gore.

So no-one thinks that Tennessee will not back Romney this November.  However, the interesting thing is that the polls suggest it could well be closer than 2008: the only polls taken this year in the state have shown the Republican lead being around 7%.  Now, I expect it to be larger than that, and in any case a win is a win whether it is by 15%, 7% or 1%, but it is interesting to see that perhaps the pendulum has stopped swinging so far rightwards here.

To cheer yourselves up though, there is news that the Libertarians have moved a lawsuit to have Romney removed from the Washington state ballot.  Apparently, the Republicans have not held a conference that the state law says is necessary.  It probably won’t succeed (and democratically, it should not either) but it is quite funny.

Senate race

In 2006, the senate race was close in Tennessee: Republican Bob Corker won by 2.7% after an unpleasant race-toned election against African American Democrat Harold Ford Jr.  Yet Corker’s re-election this year, in his first defence of his senate seat, is not called into question.

That is partly down to Corker’s popularity but also down to an almost unfeasibly stupid local Democratic Party.  As no-one thought they had a chance against Corker, no big names put themselves forward. As a result, in the primary there was a contest of seven unknowns, and so 30% of voters just voted for the bloke at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, this was for a rightwing spoiler candidate, Mark Clayton, an ultra-conservative and libertarian.  The Democratic Party is therefore now denying its support to Clayton and asking Democrats not to vote for him.  Instead, they are telling people to write-in votes for the person of thier choice, without yet coming up with a name themselves. Utterly shambolic – expect Corker to have a massive majority this time round.

House of Representatives

When George East and I were here last, whilst both senators were Republican, five of the state’s nine House congressman and its governor were Democrats.

Now, its governor is Republican as are seven of its congressmen.  Most of Nashville falls in the fifth congressional district, one of the two Democrat-held ones remaining.  As a whole, the district is D+3 (i.e. on average in presidential elections, it gives 3% more of its votes to the Democrats than the national average) and Jim Cooper, who has held the district for the last ten years, won in 2010 by 15%.  Given that 2010 was probably a harder elections for the Democrats, he should win comfortably in November.

Today’s guest paper

The Tennessean seems a fairly sensible paper.  Its lead story is the welcome news that screening of possible immigrants by local jails will be scaled down, so that the jailers do not assess themselves but pass fingerprints on to federal authorities.  This should hopefully end arbitrary judgements being made by insufficiently trained local officials.

The second story is the welcome news of the city applying for federal funds to support the deprived and mainly black inner-city East Nashville area, with $30m on the cards to focus on child poverty and education.  68% of children there are in poverty, so good work, Mr Obama.

The big national news still is the Todd Akin story, as he refuses to stand down and that deadline I mentioned before has passed.  The media is now focusing on the Republican Convention next week having agreed to have a vote on an abortion proposal that is the same as the Akin line on personhood at conception, and similar motions have passed easily in previous years.

Given that Romney has called for Akin to step down, it does begin to make Mitt look impotent in controlling his party’s lunatics.

So, there look to be two big storms heading towards their Tampa convention.  And only one is meteorological.

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