TN-Sen: Dems Get Serious Candidate

I've been watching this one for a while, but now it's a lot closer to being official -- Mike McWherter, son of the popular former Governor of Tennessee Ned McWherter, has formed an exploratory committee ahead of a potential run against freshman Republican Senator Lamar Alexander. Ken Whitehouse is on the story for The Nashville Post.

Michael Ray McWherter, 51, son of former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter, is forming an exploratory committee to run for the United States Senate, according to NashvillePost.com sources.

NashvillePost.com reported in June that McWherter, a Democrat, was considering a challenge to current U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R). The formation of an exploratory committee makes that possibility of a campaign all but a certainty and begins the fundraising process.

Sources say that McWherter has had extensive meetings over the course of the past few months with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., and with Tennessee Democratic leaders.

Mike McWherter, as he is known, is owner and operator of Central Distributors, a Jackson, Tenn.-based Anheuser-Busch distributing company, as well as vice chairman of First State Bank of Union City.

[...]

McWherter has been intensely involved in Tennessee politics throughout his life, most recently as treasurer of State Sen. Lowe Finney's (D-Jackson) successful campaign that unseated party-switcher Don McLeary. He has been a longtime political advisor to West Tennessee Democratic Congressman John Tanner.

To be clear, this race probably would not be among the top-10 pick up opportunities for the Democrats this cycle -- but that, in a sense, says at least as much about the environment and circumstances of this cycle as it does this particular race. Off the top of my head, I could name several better targets for the Democrats, including (in no particular order), Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Oregon, Nebraska (perhaps even without Bob Kerrey in this open seat contest) and Alaska (if Mark Begich jumps in). That said, McWherter has positive name recognition and even considering the fact that he has not served in public office before he would be a very serious candidate for this seat.

Again, this doesn't mean that this race will be an easy pick up for the Democrats. In fact, I'd still call it likely Republican (i.e. strong Republican advantage but potentially competitive). That said, every extra race the Republicans are forced to actually defend this cycle greatly increases the Democrats' chances of drastically increasing their numbers in the Senate this cycle -- perhaps enough to get to the vaunted 60-seat majority. And considering that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee still holds better than a $10 million cash-on hand advantage when debts are taken into account, as well as the general tilt this cycle appears to be taking, it seems that 60 seats might not in fact be out of reach.

Tags: Senate 2008, tennessee, TN-SEN (all tags)

Comments

14 Comments

Re: TN-Sen: Dems Get Serious Candidate

I've got no sense of Alexander's standing in TN--what is he, medium popular?

by david mizner 2007-09-24 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: TN-Sen: Dems Get Serious Candidate

He was ousted from 1 term of governor by Ned McWherter.  I wouldn't say he's strong enough.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-09-24 08:06PM | 0 recs
Wrong.

Alexander was a two-term governor.  He was first elected in 1978 and reelected in 1982.  McWherter came in when Alexander was term-limited in 1986.

by Tom 2007-09-25 05:00AM | 0 recs
speaking from a national view

Alexander seems to have totally disappeared.  I too wonder how he is perceived there.

by John DE 2007-09-24 05:27PM | 0 recs
His home town

Well, I live in Lamar Alexander's home town of Maryville and I drive on Lamar Alexander Parkway every day. He's certainly quite popular around here, but he's largely out of the limelight even in East Tennessee. Most criticism of him comes from conservatives angry that he's finally broken from Bush on a few things this last year (after 4 years of voting lock-step with Bush).  I think the strongest case against him is that he's gone too Washington (aka out of touch), and he hasn't done enough to separate from Bush.

But it'll be tough. Tennessee generally prefers business-type politicians over ideologues, which is why the GOP here keeps nominating the relative moderate over the wingnut (think Corker v. Bryant, Lamar v. Hilleary, even Fred Thompson v. some wingnut dude in 1994 whom I forget the name). Fortunately, Mike McWherter is also a businessman in the Phil Bredesen mode and can inspire confidence. It'll be an interesting race as Lamar hasn't had a serious challenge in a long time.

by elrod 2007-09-24 05:34PM | 0 recs
Re: His home town

"It'll be an interesting race as Lamar hasn't had a serious challenge in a long time."

They are elected for 6 year terms in the US Senate.  He's only been elected once.  Before that he was elected Governor once.  So... He's only run for statewide election three times, and won two, both of which were different offices... And... yeah.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-09-24 08:09PM | 0 recs
Again, wrong.

Someone else corrected you above, but he was re-elected as Governor, then term-limited out in 1986. He also ran for Governor unsuccessfully in 1974, making him three-for-four in statewide races.

by Unabridged 2007-09-25 05:52AM | 0 recs
Re: His home town

Honestly, everyone over here in middle Tennessee is too busy fellating native son Fred Thompson and his Presidential run for anyone to be paying too much attention to this race.  Read: nobody is paying attention to this race until Fred's Presidential campaign flops.  And if Fred is the GOP nominee for President, we don't really have that big of a chance.  Fred will carry the state easily and Lamar will just hitch his bandwagon to Fred's.

by Tom 2007-09-25 05:03AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-Sen: Dems Get Serious Candidate

Howard Dean said a long time ago, "We have to lose better," and this is one such case. If he's that well-regarded he'll be an asset for other Dems in TN as well.

I just hope we'll get as good a Senate candidate here in NC. The last two were bozos, and they were Erskine Bowles both times.

by Spiffarino 2007-09-24 06:39PM | 0 recs
Re: TN-Sen: Dems Get Serious Candidate

It's good to see McWherter in the race.  I view this one as lumped in with a large group of "potentially competitive" incumbent-leaning GOP races (in mostly deep red states) with New Mexico, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, Idaho, possibly even Oklahoma (just because of how stupid Inhofe is...) or Kansas.  

Dems must use their money advantage to try to stretch the GOP thin financially and make a race out of some of these.  I don't know where (although I HOPE for KY more than the others...), but you could end up stealing a seat or two from this group if there is a real big wave and at the very least, if you force the GOP to firewall the reddest states in the country, that creates big problems elsewhere.

by NJIndependent 2007-09-25 05:27AM | 0 recs
Sure, this is a top-10 race

Just towards the bottom of the top 10, that's all.

The top 6 are clearly Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, and Oregon, in no particular order.

After that, it's hard to tell what the next tier will ultimately be.  But name 4 states beyond those listed above where, right now, we're better situated than in Tennessee.

We've got a great opportunity in NC, but we don't have a candidate yet.  Hard to tell how Alaska will play out.  Domenici in NM is hurting more than usual, but if he runs, it'll still take a perfect storm to bring him down.  Nebraska looks possible but not likely without Kerrey, but I'm not keen on Kerrey as a Dem anyway.  I love Noriega in TX, but he's still a longshot.

And so on.

But it's still a hell of a lot better than last year, and we picked up 6 seats then.  I bet we can pick up at least 7 (and possibly as many as 10) this time, but it's hard to say which ones they'll be.

by RT 2007-09-25 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Sure, this is a top-10 race

Had Alexander been nutty as Santorum. This would have been another version of Santorum vs Casey.

Casey - son of a popular political figure in Pennsylvania- Bob Casey Sr. Popular with Republicans. Did well in Republican Areas- Central Pennsylvania.

McWherther- son of a popular political figure in Tennessee- Ned McWherther. Popular with Republicans-. Did well in Republican Areas- Eastern Tennessee.

by nkpolitics 2007-09-25 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-Sen: Dems Get Serious

I agree that 6 seats are within reach and 10 are possible. And we must expand the top tier to 10 or 12 races, or even better to 13 or 14, to get the results we may need, the 60-vote majority.

Somehow with Senate seats, even in very good years or wave years, the winning party never seems to sweep them all. In '06 we were, at one point or another in the year, seriously contesting and hoping to win in 8 states. And we did win 6 : RI, PA, VA, OH, MO, MT -- but lost 2 on our wishlist : TN and AZ.

So, sure, 6 out of 8 ain't bad at all, that's 3 out of 4 for the mathmatically challenged. But if we only seriously contest 6 races this year and do win 3 out of 4 of them, well, winning 4 or 5 seats just ain't gonna be good enough.

If we are seriously competing in 12 states come Election Day '08, and we win 3 out of 4, then 9 new seats will be a damn good day. But not quite good enough for 60 seats, unless we win 4 out of 5 and get 10 seats.

To bring within our reach that 10-seat victory and the 60-seat majority, we need to challenge at least 12-Repub held seats, and hold Landrieu in LA.

Take your 6 already on the boards -- VA, NH, CO, MN, ME, OR -- then we must add 6 or 7 more from among TN, NC, AK, NM, NE, TX, KY, OK, KS, ID, or WY special.

At this point the regular seat in WY, and those too deep in Dixieland: SC, GA, AL, MS, look beyond our wildest dreams.

So it's great good news to have a solid candidate come forward in TN. I hope his move will encourage others to step up, in the handful of states where we still lack a viable challnger.

by Woody 2007-09-25 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-Sen: Dems Get Serious Candidate

You kind of have to wonder, with Corker winning in 2006, what the rest of the state thinks about both of the state's Senators being from East Tennessee.  I think McWherter, with his family name, will play very well in West Tennessee, which is a traditionally Democratic area, and he won't have the baggage of being a black Democrat from Memphis as Harold Ford Jr. did in 2006.  This race will be closer than a lot of people expect.

by Tom 2007-09-25 11:17AM | 0 recs

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