TN-Sen: Dems Get Serious Candidate
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 05:13:08 PM EDT
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.