Democrats are terrible strategistsThere is big talk in the Nashville press and among certain Nashville blogs of the potential for a candidacy for the United States Senate by Michael Ray McWherter, son of former Governor and House Speaker Ned Ray McWherter. I generally agree with those who say that as a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, he has the best chance of any potential Democratic nominee of unseating Lamar Alexander-which in 2008 will be no chance at all.
Perhaps certain of our friends in the party opposite actually believe they can defeat Lamar! with the son of a popular Democratic Governor who even some conservatives admit didn't serve our State in an ill manner (policy disagreements aside). Mike McWherter, however, will have the distinction of running not on his own record, but on that of his father's, for he will be running in many parts of this State on name recognition alone. Ned McWherter's record was one of collaboration with Governor Alexander much of the time when he was Speaker of the House.
Beyond this, if the junior McWherter wanted a successful run at a Senate seat, that opportunity might have eluded him two years ago-the seat was open and with his name recognition, he easily could have fashioned himself in the Democratic Primary as the "clean" alternative to the Ford machine. Had Tennessee Democrats run Mike McWherter two years ago against Bob Corker, I believe McWherter could very well have won. The current leadership of the Democratic Party in this State does not seem terribly adept at political strategy, they only seem able to win when their candidates (McWherter the Elder, Al Gore Jr. pre-1992, Bredesen) are already pretty popular. They rarely run candidates like Mike McWherter in races they could actually win, as was the case two years ago.
For a Democrat to win Statewide, they must be able to either do as Bredesen did (carry every county on a quasi-Republican platform, as he did last year), or find a candidate that can hold down the Republican vote in East Tennessee that is virtually guaranteed to a margin that can be overcome. Mike McWherter could have done that last year against Bob Corker, as Corker-even though he was from Chattanooga-was not so well known outside of that city. The McWherter name and the money it would have garnered would have challenged the Haslam machine step for step.
Now Democrats may put Mike McWherter in a situation where he cannot do that. Lamar Alexander has many faults, but he is an East Tennessean from Blount County, and East Tennessee people stand by their own-his margin of victory in East Tennessee will be massive. To win, Mike McWherter's margin of victory in the other two Grand Divisions must be massive-especially in Middle Tennessee, and I just don't see it happening.
McWherter could have pulled it off two years ago. Democrats just aren't good at strategy, are they?