Insiders are shaking their heads, wondering what Wamp and Ramsey are thinking. Is each hoping the other will go first and suffer the backlash from voters? Or do they really think they can win without going negative? If they do, they’re the only ones. On the stump and in media interviews, Wamp has been slamming Haslam as the Richie Rich of Tennessee politics. Why not do it on television where it might matter?
True, their money is limited, but they could run negative advertising on conservative talk radio. That’s cheaper. In fact, they probably should have done that weeks ago.
Right-wing darling Steve Gill agrees with Pith. (We never thought we’d write that.) In an interview, Gill says:
“Haslam’s already spent more than Zach or Ron are likely to spend on media total. He’s building a lead by running a general election campaign saying vote for me because I’m a nice guy. If either Zach or Ron would rip the bark off Haslam, it would be a different race. He’d have to defend himself on guns and taxes. Here we are ankle-deep in oil at Gulf Shores. That might be an image factor for Haslam. The only thing more toxic than being an oil guy right now is probably being a guy from Congress.”
Gill points out “they’re fighting in an arena where conservative talk radio would have a huge impact” and adds, “I’ve really been surprised that they haven’t gone on the attack there.”
While they play nice, they’re letting Haslam get away with running a vapid campaign with all his fluffy ads in which he boldly comes out in favor of lollipops and the like. That would have been a mistake for the vulnerable Haslam, according to Gill, if either Wamp or Ramsey were running a competent campaign and holding the Knoxville mayor to account.
In the 2002 Senate Republican primary, Lamar Alexander did radio ads on hard-right issues, and that helped blunt Ed Bryant’s later attacks against Alexander as a squish.
“I think I would have been talking some issues at this point if I were Haslam so that he’s not just a guy who likes pie,” Gill says. “All we know at this point about Haslam is that he married his college sweetheart, a guy with pickup truck thinks he’s OK and so does the guy with the pie.”
In Haslam's latest ad, we learn he's for living within your means, which is easy to say when you're a zillionaire.