Big Jim's big problemBy now most of you have probably seen State Senator Jim Bryson's new television ad in which he (rightly) accused Governor Phil Bredesen of being at the head of a "corrupt and scandalous administration." Unlike some, I didn't think Bryson's ad was overly negative and I actually thought the ad gave a good, though cutesy first impression of the Republican nominee.
Bryson has a huge problem, and believe it or not it is not name recognition. I think it is reasonable to presume that even though few have heard of Bryson right now, he'll have enough money to put up a respectable campaign and if circumstances were different, I believe Bryson would win.
So just what are "the circumstances" of this race? Yes, there has been a scandal in the Highway Patrol involving promotions for contributions to Bredesen's campaign. That is serious business and may need to be investigated more thoroughly, but no one has ever been able to tie the promotions-for-cash scandal directly to the Governor. Meanwhile, the State has a huge budget surplus and revenue coming out the rear end, all with no income tax and no attempt to pass one in an unconstitutional manner (yet).
What is the public perception? I don't exactly live in an area crawling with liberal Democrats, and in any other year this area would vote solidly Republican in a Gubernatorial election. Yet I've heard comments from people at morning coffee like "I didn't vote for him last time, but this time I am voting for Bredesen," or "Bredesen is one of the best Governors that I can remember." People do not form such opinions because they are brainwashed. Much of the reason people like Bredesen is precisely because thus far, Bredesen hasn't made major changes even when they've been needed. On top of that, he has kept silent when the militant Left of his Party has all but demanded that he cave to their desire for "fair taxation" (code for an income tax) and take a harder line against the Constitutional Amendment defining marriage that is likely to pass in November by a massive margin-he has had little to say about it.
Does all that mean I will support Bredesen? Not on your life. I think that he likely was tied to the scandal in the Highway Patrol, and his first term has been eerily similar to that of his predecessor Don Sundquist, who attempted to ram an income tax down the people's throat just as soon as he was a safely re-elected lame duck-something that ultimately led to Bredesen's election. Not only is there no guarantee Bredesen won't try the same stunt, many a Democrat in the House would love to pass an income tax themselves.
As long as the Senate remains in Republican hands however, an income tax is far less likely to happen, and if the House goes to the GOP it won't happen at all. Bryson's big problem is not that he is a bad candidate, but that the public does not believe his opponent is a bad Governor.