To: Phil Bredesen
From: The Ink-Stained Wretches at the Scene
Hey, Phil. Wanna run for governor?
That’s the question du jour. That’s the question the state Republican Party is getting itchy about. That’s the question that’s got Bob Clement in a personal mental thunderstorm. That’s also the question all of us want an answer to, and it’s one you’re going to be dealing with in the next two weeks.
The purpose of this friendly little memo is to tell you that it looks good for you this year. If you want itand that’s probably the unanswered part of the equationthe job could realistically be yours.
One of the accepted pieces of wisdom from the presidential race last year was that the election turned in Middle Tennessee. The increasingly suburban counties lying outside NashvilleRutherford, Williamson, Sumner, etc.showed stronger support for Bush than one would have guessed based on prior elections. Naturally, Republicans were giddy over their prospects after that election, thinking Tennessee had performed some huge realignment. While there’s some truth to that, your running for governor turns all of this on its head.
Some of these Middle Tennessee voters who voted for Bush are, indeed, Republican, but their partisan affiliation may not be all that strong. Suburban Republicanism is often a state of mind, not a diehard philosophy. To these people, you present the perfect résumé: a business-oriented executive with considerable private-sector experience who brought a ton of new investment and business to Nashville. You also brought these well-heeled suburbanites a team known as the Titans.
We know you have a pretty good team of advertising folks, but we’ve come up with the perfect 30-second spot that would have your opponent raising a flag of surrender in no time. Eddie George, “Air” McNair, Jevon Kearse, and Jeff Fisher announce to the world they’re voting for you. At that point, the whole thing is over.
Nashville mayors have had a rough go of it when they run for governor. But let’s be honest: The issues facing the state right now play right into your hands. TennCare? People think you’re a health-care whiz. A budget problem? People know you can move numbers around. Taxes? You’ve said for a long time that you don’t necessarily think an income tax is the solution, so you clear this checkpoint.
Finally, and not least importantly, the field is shaping up between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Van Hilleary, the pop-and-ready Republican candidate, comes across as another Don Sundquist, only less intelligent. The Democrat Bob Clement, who becomes more like Hamlet every day, only less intelligent, would prove to be only mildly tough in the primary. While the Clement name is said to count for a lot, that advantage can beand has beenoverstated.
The only part of the electoral calculus that is really open to debate is whether you want the job that badly. It takes personal sacrifice and time away from home. In your case, it would also mean forgoing some of the unrealized gains in the numerous companies you’ve started.
But, hell, life is short. Most everyone agrees you could do some good. And how much money do you need, anyway?
P.S. Given your Yankee heritage, we feel compelled to tell you that down here in the South, it’s considered rude to freeze the field with your indecision. Van’s already raised $500,000. Now, we know that doesn’t matter to you because you can just write a check, but it’s not really fair to Bob, even if he is Tweedledum. So be niceand make a decision.
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