O’Hara: Bredesen has steep hill to climb as early voting gets underway

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen speaks to reporters in Nashville on Oct. 16, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A guest column from former Tennessean reporter Jim O’Hara:

When Phil Bredesen announced his U.S. Senate bid in December 2017, he had a steep hill to climb. If you look at the numbers – voter registrations, turnout projections and August primary results, that hill hasn’t gotten any less steep.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office released in June 2018 the latest voter registration numbers statewide. The 10 counties with the most registered voters are: Blount, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Shelby, Sullivan, Sumner, and Williamson. In 2014, those 10 counties provided 54% of the total vote.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight offers a reasonable projection for voter turnout in November in Tennessee: about 43%. A 43% turnout is about seven percent above the 2014 turnout, and so it captures the “enthusiasm” notion. If those top 10 counties all turn out at a 43% level, they will cast almost 949,000 votes, or slightly more than 55% of the statewide total.

In short, those 10 counties will in all probability decide the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee. The other 85 counties will have marginal impact.

In the 2016 presidential contest, voter turnout in those 10 counties ranged from 52% in Montgomery to 72% in Williamson County, with the rest hovering around the low-to-mid 60% range.

President Trump carried eight of the 10 counties, losing only Davidson and Shelby to Hillary Clinton. His lowest margin of victory came in Hamilton County with 58%, and his most lop-sided victory was in Sullivan County with 78% of the vote. Clinton won Davidson and Shelby counties with 63% and 62%, respectively.

So, how steep does that make Bredesen’s hill? Applying an arbitrary 60-40 split (but not unreasonable given the 2016 results) to the 10 counties and assuming Bredesen wins Davidson and Shelby and Blackburn the other eight, Bredesen has a “base” vote of slightly more than 462,000 votes and Blackburn a “base” vote of almost 487,000 votes.

The August primary results reflected this. In those 10 counties, Bredesen garnered just under 230,000 votes and Blackburn was just shy of 260,000 votes. An interesting angle of the August primary is the fall off for Blackburn from the Republican gubernatorial primary. She got almost 68,000 votes fewer than were cast for the four leading Republican candidates for governor.

What can get Bredesen up his hill? Clearly, the campaign is betting big on the unstinting barrage of advertising as well as the candidate’s effort to keep Blackburn from “nationalizing” the race with his comments on Senator Chuck Schumer and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The intangible of Blackburn’s relationship to the Republican base as seen by her August performance vis-à-vis the governor’s race is out there as well. There was a reason they flew President Trump into the historic Republican heartland of Upper East Tennessee.

At the end of Election Day, it will be the ground game and turnout. Can Bredesen cut into that 60-40 split in Blount, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Sullivan, Sumner and Williamson counties? How much can he outperform 60-40 in Davidson and Shelby counties?


22 Responses to O’Hara: Bredesen has steep hill to climb as early voting gets underway

  • Leslie Parsley says:

    It is inconceivable to me that a majority of Tennesseans would vote for a vapid twit over a level-headed former governor. Maybe I don’t always agree with the latter but I admire and respect his veracity — one of the most important characteristics of any politician in my book. I don’t have to agree with any of them all the time but I sure as hell have to believe them all the time.

    • Donna Locke says:

      Veracity? Remember that art or whatever that Bredesen said he did?

      • Cannoneer2 says:

        You beat me to it. The words “Bredesen” and “veracity” have no business being in the same paragraph together.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I can’t understand why Leslie finds the obvious so “inconceivable.” Over the past few years Republicans have had a super-majority in both houses of the General Assembly and have held all state-wide elective offices, a record that will probably be extended in a few weeks. Obviously the electorate of this state is pretty conservative. Marsha has a conservative voting record. Phil has a record of being a life-long liberal Democrat activist and a financial supporter of the most liberal candidates. The conservative voters of this state are simply going to vote for the candidate that most closely reflects their views. I can’t think of anything more conceivable.

      Finally, calling yourself “moderate” when you have spent a lifetime as an activist in and supporter of the liberal Democratic party while you are even now beating the bushes on both coasts for liberal financial support isn’t a great example of “veracity.” Phil’s refusing to respond to questions as to how he would vote regarding confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh until the very last minute when he saw which way the wind blew after which he finally indicated he would vote in favor, only to have a campaign official in his office say his answer was “political” and shouldn’t be taken seriously by his liberal supporters is an even worse example of “veracity.” If “veracity [is] one the most important characteristics of any politician in [Leslie’s] book” I suggest she join a majority of Tennessee voters who are about to show that they feel the same way by voting for Marsha.

    • Silence Dogood says:

      Seriously? Level headed? Veracity? #NPC LOL!!!!!!

  • Eddie White says:

    It is inconceivable to me that any person who voted for Trump in 2016 would vote for Bredesen in 2018. Why vote for a person who will oppose Trump’s policies at every turn?

  • Eddie White says:

    Bredesen supported NAFTA, believes in Global Warming, and supports Bump stocks…..you need a new argument to help elect liberal democrats…..

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Eddie, you don’t understand, it’s all part of James’ brilliant strategy of electing liberal Democrats who will proceed to destroy any semblance of the country we were fortunate enough to inherit from our forefathers after which the people will rise up from the totalitarian dystopia the liberals will give us and demand to return to the pre 1860 country of James’ dreams. Now aren’t you sorry you didn’t think of that?

      • James White says:

        Stuart will say anything, and as usual it is wrong. I want to go to the CONSTITUTION. Today, 1960, 1860, 1789 whatever.

        • MarLE says:

          And Stuart is the one who had the nerve to suggest another poster to this blog had a corrosive personality…..in my abnormal psych class I think that fell under the lesson on “projection”.

          • Donna Locke says:

            Well, I think he wrote that my regard for women’s statements about sexual assault and my stands for gender equality would corrode my personality. Corrode away, I say. The Congress does not reflect the gender makeup of this country. We should elect more women, but even I am not going to vote for a socialist or other total fool out to sabotage my kids’ future. Which doesn’t explain why I’ve voted for Republicans, ha! But as I said, I plan to stop voting for the same thing and hoping for a different result.

            I am going to vote tomorrow. My ballot will look very different from how it has gone down in the past. I will vote for one Democrat, and I will not vote at all in some races, more so than in the past. No good options. I’m stepping back. Maybe best to help accelerate the now-inevitable diaster, so Americans can see the totality of what they’ve wrought. While there’s still time to make some change that will not change the future outcomes but may help in some ways.

          • MarLE says:

            so, Donna….since you care about immigration do you know what Marsha means when her ad says she wants to deport “criminal illegal immigrants”? None of those here on this blog apparently understand it enough to offer an explanation.

          • Donna Locke says:


            Marsha means one of two possibilities: that all illegal aliens are criminals, which they are, or she would deport only illegal aliens who have committed certain other crimes here.

            I have no idea what she means.

            I remind folks that no adult illegal alien can remain in this country without committing crime of some sort, usually involving fraud, identity theft, driving without a license, etc. These are not victimless crimes.

          • Donna Locke says:

            Many Americans don’t know that amnesty happens every day. Illegal aliens slip into legal staus and get on the path to citizenship and the vote — with the help of employers, other American sponsors, and immigration lawyers.

          • Donna Locke says:

            status above

            Blue light may be getting to me.

          • MarLE says:

            Most illegals who cross the border and enter with no doc are Mexican or Central American. They are uneducated with the vast majority having less than a 10th grade education. Crossing into this country without papers is a crime. The other type of illegal is a visa jumper who overstays the deadline for departure. This includes many students incl Chinese, Korean, Indian most of whom have a college degree or higher. Those are hired under various status of engineers, STEM employees. But they are not, unlike the border crossers, from one country, culture and language. They are much more likely to be tax contributors and just , btw, overstaying a visa is Not a crime. Marsha’s call for allowing all to stay except criminals is appalling. These folks had decades of reproductive years ahead of them producing birthright citizens who will grow up being ideologically indoctrinated by their lawless parents. I cannot believe this will be my senator.

          • Donna Locke says:

            MarLE, as you know, the visa overstayers are subject to deportation and other penalties. If they remain here unlawfully for any period of time, they have to get into fraud of some kind and become that type of criminal in order to remain here and work here, though many loopholes exist to assist them and chances of deportation are slim. The law should be changed so they are branded as criminals right off.

            The massive, massive visa-overstay mess is beyond comprehension, really.

            How to kill a country . . .

          • MarLE says:

            which is why Marsha’s vow to deport criminals only begs further comment. Why has no journalist forced her to clarify? I thought everyone complained that we have such biased media. I’d like to know why architects and engineers, regardless of any cap on earnings, get to uniquely have 20& of their income untaxed. Would also like to know why unmarried couples, with a child, can have one of them claim “head of Household” status allowing for a standard deduction of $18K (the other adult can claim $12K which is what each adult in a married couple can claim) creating a marriage penalty. That “head of household” income also qualifies for a lower rate at each increment of income earned versus each adult in the married couple. Would like Marsha to defend the architect/engineer and marriage penalty when the whole point of massive changes to the code should be, for conservatives, to seek fairness. Not having the government pick winners and losers. Again, can’t believe this will be my senator.

  • Pingback: Thursday, October 18

  • Ed Taylor says:

    Bredesen steers away from the fact that how he would vote in the Senate is inconsequential. Simply adding a Democrat seat and giving Schumer control is all important. The impact of A 70+ year old freshman’s influence in the Senate would be nil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *