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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, October 5, 2018

Posted: 2:59 PM, Oct 05, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-05 22:11:13Z

CAPITOL VIEW
By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company
October 5, 2018

PHIL BREDESEN ON INSIDE POLITICS; THE TRUMP EFFECT; NEW POLLS; UPDATES; THE OTHER SIDE OF A STATE HOUSE RACE;

PHIL BREDESEN ON INSIDE POLITICS

With early voting for the November election getting underway in less than two weeks, we are honored to have former Governor Phil Bredesen as our guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week. 

He is the Democratic nominee for the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Bob Corker who is retiring.

Bredesen is in a neck-and-neck battle with the Republican Senate nominee, Congressman Marsha Blackburn. We’ve invited her to appear on INSIDE POLITICS as well between now and the November 6th election. The logistics for her appearance are still being worked out.

In addition to our regular schedule on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS, this week’s show with former Governor Bredesen will be broadcast on the main channel, WTVF-TV NEWSCHANNEL5 at 6:30 p.m. Friday night (October 5).  We will follow the same Friday night INSIDE POLITICS airing on the main channel air when Congressman Blackburn appears.

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each 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 NEWSCHANNEL5.com. 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.

QUICK ANSLYSIS:  The Kavanaugh issue seems to have energized both parties heading into the mid-term elections. That makes Bredesen’s decision about Kavanaugh even more difficult in a deep red state. His support of the nomination risks alienating his Democratic base (especially women). Perhaps the political calculus is Bredesen’s Democratic supporter will stick with him because they would rather have him as a Senator on all the issuer than Congressman Blackman. 

Conversely, if Bredesen had opposed Kavanaugh, it surely would have made it a lot harder for the former governor to hold some Republican and Independent voters he is counting on to win November 6th?   
Maybe, in part, that also explains this new ad from the Bredesen campaign that went up on the air within hours after his Kavanaugh announcement. Actually, the ad is really an overall response by Bredesen to many of the attacks against him.
https://youtu.be/50v8lp8NKdg?t=27

In a very close contest, the outcome of the Senate race could ride on the Kavanaugh decision by Bredesen and how voters respond to this ad (even though Kavanaugh is not mentioned).
Watch us on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend.

THE TRUMP EFFECT

For the second time this year, President Donald Trump came to Tennessee (this time Johnson City in upper East Tennessee). He came last Monday (October 1) to help Congressman Marsha Blackburn win her U.S. Senate race with Democrat Phil Bredesen.

The President was the main attraction for a high-ticket, closed door fundraiser for the Republican nominee, followed by a Make America Great Rally. In his remarks at the public rally, the President was fully in tune with the Blackburn campaign.

“She is all about Tennessee values. She has Tennessee values. A vote for Marsha is a vote for me, and everything we stand for and a vote to make America great again."

The visit is one of four campaign appearances Mr. Trump is making this week alone across the country to try and make a difference in key November races. Will his appearance help in Tennessee? Will he need to come back again before November 6th? What about Vice President Mike Pence who has also come to the Volunteer State twice to help Blackburn?

Former state representative and Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe seems to have his doubts based his most recent column on state politics posted on the Knox News website.
https://www.knoxnews.com/story/shopper-news/2018/09/29/ashe-why-trump-returning-and-why-blackburn-cant-move-polls/1453741002/

Congressman Blackburn’s strong reliance on the President and his administration is also drawing cautionary words from legendary Tennessee Republican political consultant Tom Ingram. Here’s an excerpt from a recent POLITICO article. 

“Ingram said Tennessee Republicans can’t count on Trump’s popularity transferring to Blackburn, pointing out that some who have tried emulating Trump by going far to the right failed to connect with voters. He pointed to the state’s GOP gubernatorial primary, where, he said, the two Republican candidates who were the most conservative and mostly aligned with the president finished second and third.

“There’s only one Trump,” Ingram said. “And Trump voters are Trump voters. It’s a mistake to consider that they’re all ultraconservative voters. They’re angry, frustrated, felt-left-out voters. Some of them are very conservative, some aren’t. They’re all over the board in Tennessee. I think putting all of your eggs in the Trump basket in Tennessee is a little risky.” (FYI, in 2002, Ingram supported Bredesen in his successful gubernatorial campaign). 

Here is a link to the full POLITICO article for more of Ingram’s comments and learn about more outside Republican/ Trump Super PACs also looking to jump into the Tennessee race. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/01/trump-blackburn-tennessee-senate-855389

Almost on cue with this article, still more attack ads from outside PAC groups have begun airing in Tennessee. Here’s one from the National Republican Senate campaign going after Phil Bredesen. It employs similar talking points to those being used by Marsha Blackburn and President Trump.
https://youtu.be/-i6BFEXXGGk?t=3

And there is another ad opposing Bredesen from a new outside Super PAC group, the Committee to Defend the President.
https://youtu.be/7Q2iZmFH1YA?t=3

Bredesen is even being attacked in a new ad by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Super PAC for having responsibility for the opioid crisis in Tennessee.
https://youtu.be/ies_u5YAsow

The Tennessee Republican Party is running it’s own on-line digital ad featuring made-up (fake) text messages between Phil Bredesen and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton regarding the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination.
http://tennesseestar.com/2018/10/04/new-gop-ad-imagines-schumer-hillary-clinton-giving-bredesen-instructions-to-stay-silent-on-kavanaugh-nomination/

Here is the actual ad:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n29QL4w5zbU

There is one outside PAC group, Majority Forward, that is on Bredesen’s side. The group is continuing to attack Marsha Blackburn. Its latest ad focuses on healthcare in criticizing Blackburn.
https://youtu.be/wTzF6-GTpWA?t=2

Bredesen is getting financial support from sources outside Tennessee. That includes, reports CNBC) an upcoming fundraiser being hosted by former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg.  Bloomberg is also a high profile supporter of gun control legislation.
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/03/mike-bloomberg-hosting-fundraiser-for-candidate-phil-bredesen.html
Meanwhile the two campaigns (Bredesen & Blackburn) are going after each other in dueling TV ads on the issue of immigration.
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/tn-elections/2018/09/28/marsha-blackburn-ad-attacks-phil-bredesen-drivers-licenses-immigrants-bill-enacted-2001/1454157002/
Here’s the Bredesen response ad.
https://youtu.be/_5WUmoho5RA?t=2

THE USA TODAY—TENNESSEE Network had this story Thursday about Congressman Blackburn’s alleged relationship with hate groups.
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/tn-elections/2018/10/04/marsha-blackburn-senate-hate-group-david-horowitz/1513144002/

The Trump presidential visit this week to support Blackburn overwhelmingly dominated the early week news cycle. But the Bredesen campaign tried to get into the news too.

You might remember the day of the President’s trip, October 1, was at one time set to be the second of four debates between the two Senate candidates.   Blackburn declined that event set to be held in Chattanooga.

As happened in Memphis, where Blackburn also declined a debate opportunity, Team Bredesen held its own event with voters in Chattanooga on October 1st anyway. The candidate himself used the opportunity to draw comparisons to what the GOP Senate candidate was doing Monday night (raising money with the President) instead of being in Chattanooga. The daily paper in Chattanooga, THE TIMES FREE PRESS covered the story:
https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2018/oct/01/bredesen-slaps-blackburn-solo-chattanooga-appearance/480208/

Not everything about the Bredesen event in Chattanooga was positive for the candidate. When he again declined to say whether, if he was a Senator, he would vote for or against Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court. He was booed by some in the audience.

Courtesy of Steve Cavendish of NASHVILLE POST, here’s how one of those attending the Chattanooga event reported what happened on Twitter.
https://twitter.com/kkruesi/status/1046894151957188608

On Wednesday, the Senate race was back again in the national media spotlight with THE NEW YORK TIMES posting an article that reviews financial questions that surround both candidates.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/us/politics/tennessee-governor-blackburn-bredesen.html

THE WASHINGTON POST weighed in on the race as well this week with this story.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-deep-red-tennessee-republicans-are-anxious-about-the-us-senate-race/2018/10/04/de13d5a6-c57d-11e8-b2b5-79270f9cce17_story.html?utm_term=.90bf29672afb

NEW POLLS

There were two new polls out this week.

On Thursday, FOX NEWS released a survey showing Blackburn up 5 points (48%-43%) which is outside the poll’s margin for error. You can read the results in detail at this link.
https://www.foxnews.com/politics/tennessee-poll-document-10-3

here’s how THE TENNESSEE JOURNAL ON THE HILL blog reports and analyzes the FOX poll.
http://onthehill.tnjournal.net/new-fox-poll-has-blackburn-leading-bredesen-by-5-points/#more-8887
There was another poll out earlier in the week from the NBC/Survey Monkey. It shows the Blackburn-Bredesen race tied, literally, (42% for both and 15% undecided). Here is a link to more details including how the survey group is graded by the 538 website, unlike the FOX pollster, is not very high (D-).
http://onthehill.tnjournal.net/online-poll-has-tennessees-u-s-senate-race-even/
CNN still lists the Senate race as a toss- up in its latest analysis.
https://www.cnn.com/election/2018/key-races

The 538 website has changed its outlook on the Tennessee Senate race as of Thursday afternoon:
https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2018-midterm-election-forecast/senate/?ex_cid=midterms-header
If you click on Tennessee in the 538 map of the U.S., it projects the race. Blackburn has 2 out 3 chances to win, Phil Bredesen a 1 out of 3 chance to prevail. Earlier this week the odds were Blackburn with 3 out of 5 chances to win, Bredesen with 2 out 5. In percentages, 538 sees Blackburn getting  50% of the vote, Bredesen 46.6%.  Earlier, it was Blackburn 49.3%, Bredesen at 47.37%. 
538 now projects Blackburn with a 66.9% chance to win, Bredesen 33.1%. 

THE FIRST GUBERNATORIAL DEBATE

The two gubernatorial candidates held their first of three debates last Tuesday night at the University of Memphis. The candidates, Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean, disagreed on how to handle a number of critical issues facing the state. But they did so in a cordial fashion without the partisan rancor and barbs from last week’s Senate debate.

Trailing in all the polls, it appears Dean needs to do something in these debates to shake up and tighten the race. The New FOX NEWS poll shows Lee up a whopping 17%. Here’s the link to the FOX poll if you want to focus on the gubernatorial poll results.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/tennessee-poll-document-10-3

Getting back to the debate and based on Karl Dean’s current campaign ads, the most likely issue for him to try and draw a clear area of difference and distinction with Lee is health care. Here’s how Dean’s TV ad is trying to do that.

https://youtu.be/b2igWpuNxyA?t=4

Tuesday night at the Memphis debate, Dean was given a golden opportunity to drive home his difference with Lee when he was asked the very first question in the debate about health care. While the former Nashville mayor clearly outlined his support for keeping Tennessee’s tax dollars at home by expanding Medicaid to provide 130,000 citizens with health coverage and helping to stop the ongoing closing of rural hospitals in the state, he never related it back to Lee why his opposition to Medicaid expansion is the wrong policy. It allowed Lee to state again that the Affordable Care Act is the wrong way to try and fix our nation’s broken health care system without being directly criticized by Dean.

Dean did do a better job later in the debate calling out Lee, directly and by name, for his support of school vouchers. This could be something of a sleeper issue. I am told by a Republican source that Lee’s support for vouchers may not be going over well in red, rural Tennessee which is a part of the state where Lee is focusing his campaign.

It is not reflected in the polls, but I am also told by Republican sources some elements of the GOP legislative leadership and activists don’t feel the Lee campaign is not doing enough to reach out for their help and possible advice.  There are also concerns among some in the GOP about who is in the candidate’s inner circle and who might be in Lee’s cabinet if he’s elected. Those cabinet choices might be (rumor has it) former conservative state lawmakers and past statewide candidates Mae Beavers and Joe Carr.

Stay tuned.

As for Lee’s debate performance, despite his lack of experience as a candidate or in government, he handled himself adequately, and without any major error, in responding to the questions asked.

If Dean needs Lee to make a mistake, he didn’t get one at the first debate that I could see or hear. The two gubernatorial candidates debate again twice next week, first in Kingsport Tuesday, October 9 and then a final joint appearance in Nashville October 12.

Here’s the NASHVILLE SCENE’s analysis of the first gubernatorial debate.
https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/21025366/two-key-exchanges-from-the-first-deanlee-debate

UPDATES

The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear a challenge to Amendment 1, the 2014 ballot measure that eliminated the right to an abortion from the Tennessee state constitution.

The measure passed with 54% of the vote, but a legal challenge was mounted saying the state did not count the ballots properly. The challenge prevailed in the lower court but failed in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

That decision will stand allowing Tennessee lawmakers to continue to adopt restrictions on the use and availability of abortion in the state.

From the Tennessee Supreme Court came reports this week that the justices are taking up a death penalty case challenging how the state handles its lethal injection procedure. The case is being heard with Tennessee’s latest execution now less than a week away.

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2018/10/03/tennessee-supreme-court-considers-lethal-injection-challenge-before-edmund-zagorski-execution/1503780002/

Some other updates on previous stories related to Nashville and its image.

After opening just nine months ago, Gaylord Entertainment is closing for now its Opry City Store located in Times Square in New York City. It is being shuttered due to poor sales and marketing.
https://nypost.com/2018/09/27/times-squares-opry-city-stage-is-shutting-down/

If the New York City bust makes you want to cry in your beer, you’ve apparently come to the best place in the nation if you are here in Nashville. According Top 10 published by THRILLLIST, Nashville is number one among cities for drinking. Click below and scroll down to see what the story says. https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/best-drinking-cities-in-america
Bottoms up, I guess.

Ground has finally been broken on the long-awaited new Fred Thompson Federal Courthouse to be constructed downtown, along Church Street and 7th and 8th Avenues North. This NASHVILLE POST article also features a new rendering of the building.  https://www.nashvillepost.com/business/development/article/21024898/new-image-released-for-federal-courthouse

Metro Mayor David Briley and the city got some reassuring financial news this week. The major financial groups that set the city’s bond rating, have reaffirmed Nashville’s “strong “ranking. The Briley administration says this reaffirmation indicates the city’s financial status is strong, despite much concern being raised about that during the recent city budget approval process and the approval of the new MLS soccer stadium to be built at the Fairgrounds.

Here’s the news release from the Mayor’s office.

Nashville, Tenn. (Oct. 4, 2018) – Within the past 48 hours, Metro Nashville Government has received strong bond ratings from both Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s Financial Services (S&P). 

Moody’s affirmed its Aa2 rating, while S&P affirmed its AA rating for Metro’s general obligation bonds. 
“This underscores my frequent assertion that the city’s financial health is strong,” said Mayor David Briley. “The decisions we had to make in the budget this year were tough. Our budget challenges, however, were not an indication of financial vulnerability.”

Metro Nashville Government is rated by both agencies in conjunction with bond offerings. Both look at factors such as revenue, debt, liquidity and governance to determine their ratings. 

“I am perhaps most pleased that both agencies cited prudent financial management and the city’s rapidly growing tax base as reasons for their ratings,” Mayor Briley added. “We will only benefit from our growth and prosperity if we manage our finances well, and I want to thank the Metro Council for their partnership in this effort.”

The news was shared with Metro Council Budget and Finance Chair, Tanaka Vercher.

“These ratings confirm our city’s strong economy, and it is even more powerful when outside agencies validate this,” Vercher said. “The decisions we had to make this year were difficult, no doubt. However, we have great hope that this will be a strong year for budget planning and revenue growth.”

In its ratings outlook, Moody’s states “the stable outlook reflects the expectation that Metro's regional tax base will continue to grow and provide the necessary revenues to support ongoing capital needs and governmental operations, including annual financial support to Metro's Hospital Authority.” S&P cites that their rating reflects their assessment of Nashville’s strong economy; strong fiscal management; good financial policies and practices; adequate budgetary performance; strong budgetary flexibility; very strong liquidity; and very strong institutional framework score.”

Finally, another barrier has been broken down in Metro government. This week the city appointed its first African American Fire Chief.
https://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/people/article/21025506/veteran-metro-official-to-lead-fire-department

THE OTHER SIDE OF A STATE HOUSE RACE

Last week we discussed that it is somewhat unusual for candidates running for a State House seat to produce and buy time to run TV ads (although with the increasing use of on-line digital ads you will probably see more of it).

For example, both candidates in House District 56 have produced commercials. They are running to take the place of retiring House Speaker and long-time Republican representative Beth Harwell. She lost her race for governor back in August.

 In our last column, we showed you Democrat Bob Freeman’s commercial. Now here is the spot for Republican Dr. Brent Moody.

https://www.facebook.com/drbrentmoody/videos/248964705807216/?t=30

The Freeman campaign has now released a second ad:
https://youtu.be/gd1JE4rEABw?t=6