Capitol View Commentary: Fri., Nov. 2, 2018

Capitol View Commentary: Fri., Nov. 2, 2018
Posted at 4:57 PM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 17:57:03-04


By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company



After a 10-day plus dearth of any new public polling in Tennessee’s red—hot U.S. Senate race, a slew of new polls have been released this week. All of them show Republican Marsha Blackburn building a lead.

An NBC-Marist poll says the Tennessee U.S. Senate race is plus 5 for Marsha Blackburn (51%-46%).

A CNN poll says it Blackburn by 4

An Emerson poll has Blackburn by 8

FOX News has Blackburn up by 9

An Emerson poll has her by 8

Polls by the Vox and Cygnal polling groups project the Congressman with leads of 6 to 8 points.

That is outside those polls’ margins for error as are Blackburn’s leads in the FOX and Emerson polls.

The CNN and NBC/ Marist polls both have Blackburn ahead but within the margin for error.

That may be what lead CNN election analyst Harry Enten to write this on the CNN Politics web site Friday morning:

My best estimate gives Marsha Blackburn a six-point win. The worst case for Marsha Blackburn is to lose by 5 points. That means Marsha Blackburn is favored, but the margin of error is wide enough that we shouldn't be surprised if Phil Bredesen comes from behind.”

Here is the way THE TENNESSEE JOURNAL reported on how the various polling groups are graded:

“The polling site FiveThirtyEight gives A ratings to the NBC and Fox pollsters, while the CNN survey gets an A-minus. Three other polls (include) Emerson College rated with a B-plus, while Republican pollsters Cygnal and Vox Populi both rated B.”

Here are links to more detailed information on some of the polls.






So why is Blackburn pulling ahead? It appears from the polls Republicans in the end have come home to her and the GOP. The polls also show President Trump’s popularity in Tennessee remains high, perhaps further helping in nationalizing” the contest.

If that is accurate, you can see why the Blackburn campaign very much wants the President back in Tennessee to campaign for her for a third time this Sunday night in Chattanooga. And traditional Republican East Tennessee may be exactly where she needs the final voter boost. Interestingly, the Bredesen campaign will be Chattanooga too on Sunday with the candidate hosting “an interfaith prayer lunch with faith and community leaders at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga to discuss the future of Tennessee and America.”

As I mentioned earlier, the NBC/Marist and CNN surveys indicate the race, depending on whose GOTV efforts are the best, could still see a very close contest November 6. The old trite saying is true: the only poll that matters is Election Day. That’s when there are no undecided voters, only those who went to the polls. The numbers Election Night may well reflect the latest polls but talking to a pollster and showing up to vote are two different things. That’s why the get out the vote efforts of both campaigns now come to center stage in this final act of Campaign 2018.

Here’s what former NASHVILLE SCENE editor Bruce Dobie found in his survey of leadership types in the four major cities. It could the Bredesen folks some reason to feel optimistic.


1.378 million. That’s how many Tennessee voters have cast early or absentee ballots.

That’s more than double the total for the last mid-term election in 2014 (620,000).

It is a record total overall for early vote for this type election, and not far off the 2016 presidential year.

What does it mean? Turnout is up almost over the state. Analyzes THE TENNESSEE JOURNAL:

“Both campaigns say the higher turnout works in their favor, with Blackburn’s camp saying more voters who gave Trump a 26-point win will be back to support him, while Bredesen’s side is hoping to peel off a decent percentage of those ballots outside of Democratic cities. Voters turned out in droves in heavily Democratic Davidson and Shelby counties as early voting drew to a close Thursday. The 19,129 early ballots cast in Shelby County were the most cast on any single day of early voting around the state.

Voters stood in line past 10 p.m. in some Nashville locations to bring Thursday’s tally to 16,437 ballots. The total of 162,256 ballots cast in Davidson was within 8% of the early voting turnout in the 2016 election. The 187,456 votes cast in Shelby County were the most in the state, but still 29% short of two years ago. In traditionally Republican areas, Hamilton County’s 67,403 votes were within 9.5% of 2016, the 74,504 votes in Blackburn’s home of Williamson County were down 12%, and Knox’s 117,750 votes were 20% lower than two years ago.

Here’s a full county by county analysis of the early vote courtesy of the Tennessee Secretary of State:


In the final full week of the Tennessee U.S. Senate campaign, both candidates and their outside support groups continue to fill the airwaves with attacks.

For Republican Congressman Blackburn the major issue remains the Central American caravan of migrants moving towards the U.S.- Mexican border. To seal the border, President Donald Trump is ordering tens of thousands of army troops to the area. Blackburn sees a weakness on this issue by her opponent.

The Super PAC of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel continues to increase its ad spending to attack Phil Bredesen. The group has its own caravan attack broadside criticizing the former governor. Sometimes I have seen it run on TV back to back with the Blackburn’s ad.

Of course, even the President himself admits there are no facts or evidence to back up his claims about all the bad people being in the caravan. But these caravan ads seem to the final closing message from the Blackburn campaign. As for Bredesen, much as his campaign did in rebutting the sexual harassment claims the Blackburn Camp raised earlier in the race, Team Bredesen has a TV/digital ad out in response to Blackburn, pointing out the former Governor’s record on securing the border.

Bredesen also has an op-ed he’s written on the caravan topic.

As for closing TV ads, here’s Bredesen’s. It ends as it began with his tag line “I’m applying for the job.”

The final :60 second digital ad has the same message, but it is worded a little differently.

Another battle in this last week of the Senate campaign came when an outside group, saying it is not affiliated with the Bredesen campaign, disrupted a Blackburn rally last Sunday being held with South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham. You can read the story and watch the video here.

While the polls show a Blackburn advantage, both sides still see to be acting like the Senate race is still quite close. As I mentioned earlier, Sunday evening at the Roundhouse Arena in Chattanooga, President Donald Trump will be making his third campaign trip to Tennessee to support Marsha Blackburn. Given the location of two of the trips (East Tennessee) that part of the state appears to be where she needs help the most (it’s traditionally most Republican part of the state). Can Mr. Trump put her over the top with those voters who are known to be very fiscally conservative but a bit more moderate on some of the President’s red-meat social issues? There are counties outside Chattanooga, such as Bradley which have a significant number of evangelical voters, perhaps they are the top targets for this visit?

Meanwhile the record amount of money being spent in the Senate race continues to soar, particularly by outside groups. Here is what THE TENNESEE JOURNAL reports as of Thursday.

The numbers are astounding! 

“Total spending in the Senate campaign had reached a dizzying $84 million through Thursday. While Outside groups have spent more on Blackburn’s behalf, Bredesen’s campaign has outspent his Republican rival. The result is that remarkably similar amounts have been spent by — or on behalf of —both candidates: $43.4 million for Blackburn and $40.8 million for Bredesen.

No matter the outcome, it will be hard for either side to claim it was for a lack of resources.” Bredesen supporters trailed in the independent expenditure game for most of the campaign before turning on the jets in the final weeks of the contest. About $13 million has been spent by outside groups in this week alone, with 54% coming from groups supporting the Democrat and 46% from Republican-leaning groups. The biggest outside spender to date has been the Senate Leadership Fund, a group tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that has spent $19.7 million. But Majority Forward and SMP, two groups affiliated with Senate Democrats, have now combined to spend $20.2 million on Bredesen’s behalf.

The overall split is $31.3 million by groups supporting Blackburn and $25.4 million among those backing Bredesen. A late entrant into the independent spending game is the Black Progressive Action Coalition, which poured more than $3 million into canvassing and direct mail efforts this week on behalf of Bredesen.”

Who knew that much out of state money was necessary to help Tennesseans make up their minds?

Speaking of election-related spending: the controversy over Metro Charter Amendment #1 to establish a Community Oversight Board to investigate complaints against police has seen a lot of money raised and spent in the few short weeks the matter has been on the ballot. The money itself, and how it’s being reported, is now sparking its own controversy.

Back to the Senate race: On Tuesday (before Early Voting ended) Bredesen got another major social media boost from his perhaps his biggest and most well-known supporter, Taylor Swift.



And so it goes…. right down to the wire.

To prepare for Election Night, if you want an article looking for an overall excellent analysis of the strategies of both candidates in the Senate race, as well as what to look for election night as the returns come in, read the attached POLITICO article written by former NASHVILLE SCENE editor Steve Cavendish.


In the last week of the campaign, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean is continuing his more pointed style to spell out his differences with Republican candidate Bill Lee.

After saying his opponent would be “an extreme governor” on issues such as supporting school vouchers, and opposing the expansion of Medicaid, now in Dean’s latest (and perhaps final TV ad), the former Nashville mayor is criticizing Lee’s position on guns.

Produced before the weekend massacre of 11 Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Dean criticizes Lee’s for his support for concealed gun carry, i.e., without the need for a state permit. Dean also criticizes Lee for saying he would arm classroom teachers to protect schools.

Lee has his own final TV ad is telling voters they “have a pretty clear choice.”

The “good to great” comment obviously echoes a best-selling “how to succeed in business” book from a few years ago. And it’s not the first time it’s been used in a political campaign against Dean.

None of the polls that came out this week show much hope for Dean to win November 6. They all show him behind Bill Lee by well into double digits.


As we move to just a few short days before mid-term elections, this week on INSIDE POLITICS we want to talk about “Crossing the Aisle.”

It’s a political term that means lawmakers and other elected leaders working with the other party to seek solutions to problems.

Are such politics becoming extinct? Or does Tennessee’s recent history indicate Crossing the Aisle has and can still work.

Author and USA TODAY--TENNESSEE columnist Keel Hunt is joining us to discuss those topics and a new book he’s written about it.

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each air throughout the weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS.

Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday;

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday;

1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

One option for those who can’t see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you.

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted the week after the program airs.

PROGRAM NOTE: We had planned to have Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee as our guest this weekend on INSIDE POLITICS. But on Monday. citing a scheduling conflict, the Lee campaign cancelled his appearance.


Mayor David Briley’s first major downtown redevelopment effort could be in doubt. The plan to swap park property across from the downtown Library to a local developer so a new high-rise could be built has deadlocked a sub-committee of the Metro Parks & Recreation Board. While the city would get a new downtown park and a homeless service center in return, there are concerns about the process used to reach the deal.

There are also concerns about the potential increasing value of the park property being swapped, even as downtown tourism officials are endorsing the mayor’s proposal.

This controversy seems likely to come to a decision in the weeks immediately following the November 6 election. That’s also the time when those looking to run in next year’s (August) Metro Election will be making up their minds to run for mayor, vice mayor and all 40 Metro Council seats.