O’Hara: The hill might no longer be quite as steep for Bredesen

Democratic candidate and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, left, speaks during the 2018 Tennessee U.S. Senate Debate with Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn at The University of Tennessee Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, Pool)

A guest column from former reporter Jim O’Hara:

“Follow the money” is still a pretty good political maxim. Republican and Democratic PACs continued to spend heavily in the Phil Bredesen-Marsha Blackburn U.S. Senate race  despite recent polls showing a Blackburn lead (totals this week alone: $5.9 million for her, $7.9 million for him).

Reviewing the recently completed statewide early voting, in fact, suggests a race to the finish. An earlier column argued for the outsized role in Tennessee of the 10 counties with the highest numbers of registered voters. In the 2014 mid-terms, those 10 counties provided 54% of the total vote. One can also assume President Trump didn’t pick Chattanooga for a Sunday rally for Blackburn just because it has spillover potential in the Georgia governor’s race.

The counties are: Blount, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Shelby, Sullivan, Williamson, and Wilson.

In the early voting that ended Thursday, those 10 counties were the top 10 counties of early voters. They cast 814,001 votes, or 59% of the total early vote of 1,378,840.

And Davidson and Shelby accounted for 350,924 votes, or 43% of the votes cast in those 10 counties.

Applying an admittedly arbitrary but not unrealistic scenario based on the presidential results in Tennessee in 2016, assign a 55-45 victory for Blackburn in eight of those counties – Blount, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Sullivan, Williamson and Wilson, and a 65-35 margin for Bredesen in Davidson and Shelby.

The results: Bredesen with 436,884 votes in those 10 counties compared to 377,517 for Blackburn.

A hill that once looked pretty steep for Bredesen given the Tennessee drift to the Republican side seems manageable, and the avalanche of money makes a lot of sense.

Is Bredesen outperforming the Democratic base by these margins, is Blackburn not benefiting from her and Trump’s efforts to nationalize the election? Tuesday is the poll that will tell, but a sizable number of the votes have already been cast.

O’Hara covered state and national politics for The Tennessean in the 1980s.

16 Responses to O’Hara: The hill might no longer be quite as steep for Bredesen

  • Teddy says:

    Known Republicans outvoted Democrats 60-40 in early voting. Your analysis may be flawed.

    • Jim O'Hara says:

      Point remains the same: it’s close. Give Blackburn 60-40 instead of 55-45 win in her 8 counties, and give Bredesen 60-40 instead of 65-35 in Davidson and Shelby. Result: Bredesen with 395,781 votes and Blackburn 418,200. Who outperforms and who underperforms in their GOTV gets the edge. Don’t expect the commercial to go away until Wednesday.

    • James Williams says:

      You are assuming that all known Republicans are voting for her. This is not the case.

  • Tim Skow says:


  • June landrum says:

    No way O’Hara can get numbers until election nite when the counting is finished. Do not believe what he is saying. wishful thinking on his part is correct. He should be made to retract this false reporting

    • MarLE says:

      Those are Not Actual numbers but extrapolations from the 2016 voting data. He used percentages from that race and plugged them into current overall early voting data. Can no one read with comprehension anymore? TN needs to stop concentrating on common core math and emphasize reading and critical thinking.

    • Steve says:

      Please learn the difference between news reporting, which this is not, and opinion, which this is. It’s clearly labeled as opinion, of which a “column” is one form.

      “A guest column from former reporter Jim O’Hara:”

  • Kenneth Jordan says:

    Not “false reporting” , but just regarded as “fake news” by those whose biases will not let them see the truth. I live in Sullivan County and know a number of people who are voting for Bill & Phil. We know a wingnut when we see one. Governor Bredesen has talked issues, Marsha has not!

  • Gerald says:

    Dont forget about independents that are breaking towards Bredesen.

  • Jc says:

    Lol. There are a few other counties out there.

  • Sarah Turner says:

    All of those comments saying “wishful thinking” and “fake news” obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. I can get early voting results right now. I fact, I’ve already seen them. Do a simple Google search before you post next time.

  • Donna Locke says:

    The 93 counties outside Davidson and Shelby are what the transplanted David Plazas at The Tennessean likes to call “pockets.” You know, the counties where actual native Tennesseans live.

  • Donna Locke says:

    I’m one of the walkaways. For the first time, I voted for a Democrat for my state rep — because he is actually from here.

    After saying I would vote for Marsha, as I always had, I did not vote in that race.

    I voted for Bill Lee for governor and was not happy about it. And I voted for my congressman, Scott DesJarlais.

  • Em Chitty says:

    Marsha has run vicious attack ads nonstop with no substance except fearmongering , lies, and bragging about how she rides around in Trump’s pocket. What kind of person does that? She is not worthy to represent Tennessee. Phil was a solidly good governor and is an independent person, his own man. Marsha is a little yapping Shi Tzu.

  • charles todd says:

    Having worked with both these candidates-one listens, offers thoughtful & relevant questions-then makes it happen, thank you for giving us Tennesseans one more chance to serve us honorably, Governor Bredesen. Blackburn was like a statue with a tape recording in her mouth-then she walked out-we finally got to business & got the project completed, even though it was in her own district. If you want to drain the swamp then drain the damn thing, which would likely include Blackburn’ 16 years in congress

  • Teddy says:

    So much for Jim O’Hara’s flawed analysis. Bredesen only carried 3 counties and lost by over 240,000 votes. Not even close. Remember Bredesen won the governor’s office the first time by only 40,000 +votes. He was reelected by running against an unknown, weak and underfunded opponent. Great job Jim!

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