First district race for 2008 is hot before it beginsVance Cheek Jr. has a post up highlighting the near-certainty that Congressman David Davis will face serious and well-funded Primary opposition in 2008. As Cheek points out, Commissioner Phil Roe is running for re-election to the Johnson City Commission using the same domain name as his Congressional website. This is a highly abnormal move if you do not intend to keep that kind of domain name for future use, and if Roe were going to wait until 2010, surely his campaign would have the financial ability to simply purchase a new domain name by that time. Roe still has the domain name because Roe intends to run for Congress in short order.
Here is one area where I think Cheek may be off the mark:
While this happens, Richard Roberts sat in my office about a month ago and spent nearly an hour explaining why he would not be a candidate. That's usually a sure sign than the candidate is planning another run. Again, Richard vehemently denies this. However, if Richard is encouraged to run again, it is my personal belief that his personal financial contribution to the race will dwarf his monster financing of the 2006 campaign.
I think if Roberts spent an hour explaining to Vance Cheek, a 2006 rival and former Mayor of a major city in the First District whose potential support could help him if he ran, he probably isn't going to run. I may be wrong here, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on Roberts running. If you want to unseat David Davis, you might rather Roberts be his singular opponent than Phil Roe. It isn't just the issue of Roberts' money-Roberts comes across as more genuine and believable than Roe. It may not be a true impression, but if I think that, I am not the only Republican voter who does. If Roberts does not run, it may be because he doesn't want a three-way race that would allow Davis to squeak by again and cement Davis' hold on power.
On the flip side, a two-way race between Davis and Roe would be a likely Davis victory, as opposed to merely a possible one (as would be the case against Roberts). It is hard to argue that Phil Roe is as conservative as David Davis. For all of his faults, David Davis did receive Tennessee Right to Life's endorsement in the last election, and has a solidly conservative record in the General Assembly about which he can brag, even as it appears that his Congressional abilities will not equal those he displayed in Nashville. Conservatives in the grassroots would side with Davis over Roe in a two-man Primary, as Davis would be by far the more conservative of the two.
Richard Roberts, on the other hand, is another matter. He has an extremely strong stance on immigration and made it a point to say on several occasions and in no uncertain terms that was opposed to Frist's Senate bill. He also strongly supports traditional marriage and even supports a Constitutional Amendment to protect it (I don't agree with Roberts on this, not because I disagree with the spirit of what he is saying, but because marriage ought to be left in the hands of the States and Tennessee's constitutional amendment should suffice). He was talking about banning earmarks and a line-item veto while other candidates barely broached those questions, and long before the President mentioned earmarks in the State of the Union. Roberts could make the argument that he is as strong or stronger than Davis on these issues, and he has never held elective office, so he could run as the outsider-an enviable political position for a mountain Republican to be in.
Roberts' biggest mistake in his campaign last year was to "run on the war." He is (or at least was) more hawkish on Iraq than the district at-large, and he failed to see otherwise. Running on this war will not get you votes in the First District, it will lose you votes. People support our soldiers, sailors, and Marines here-no question. But kids from the First District are coming home with missing limbs (one right here in White Pine) or in caskets, and people are justifiably questioning our war policy if they are not opposed to continuing the war outright. Had Roberts campaigned more on immigration and less on the war, I believe he would be the Congressman from the First District today. Roberts has no military experience, and whatever his position on the war, he should stay away from campaigning too heavily on something about which he knows very little.
In a three-man race Davis might be able to squeak by since Roberts has enough establishment support to cyphen some establishment votes from Roe. If Roberts really campaigns hard on the issues of immigration and federal spending, he could split Davis' conservative votes and make the race very interesting indeed. Obviously, Roberts would be in a position to win in a two-man contest. In a three-way race, Davis would likely emerge the winner-just barely. Roberts does have the potential to pull off the upset.