Debate Mania and TurnoutIt has been debate mania in Tennessee, and a way to get to the debate in Nashville tonight has become one of the hottest tickets in the State. The Tennessean had the news that the CBS Early Show broadcast from the Belmont campus this morning. John Rich played his campaign song Raisin' McCain in front of a flurry of Obama signs (give the Obama supporters credit, they were very gracious to John Rich) that might have given the casual viewer the impression that Tennessee was filled with Obama supporters.
There is a big difference-a dichotomy of sorts-between Nashville and Memphis and the State of Tennessee. Outside of Davidson and Shelby Counties, finding a bona fide Obama backer is possible, but they are rare as chicken teeth. I can think of several Democrats in my town who have publicly said that they are going to vote for John McCain, and these are usually straight-ticket Democratic voters. Others are unwilling to publicly admit that they might vote for Barack Obama, instead choosing not even to discuss the presidential race if politics are brought up at one of several town "newsstands" in the community. Those brave enough to admit that they will cast a ballot for Obama have taken a lashing in the local paper and among certain people in town that even I-rock-ribbed Republican that I am-think borders on the unfair. Part of me wants to say "they are Democrats, the poor souls, and can't help themselves." Obama supporters out here in the "real Tennessee" are a small enough minority that leaving them alone to practice their hero worship isn't likely to bring about any danger that Obama will actually carry the State.
How will the debate tonight impact Barack Obama's showing here? He might be able to do slightly better in Tennessee if he would actually campaign here. The Obama campaign made a conscious decision quite a long time ago to write Tennessee off. If the gap closes and the election once again becomes tight-as many expect that it may-Barack Obama may regret that decision. This is especially true since the Belmont debate has generated a sort of debate mania, as many small towns and communities with local offices up for election in November held debates or forums last night which inadvertantly acted as precursors to tonight's event in the State capital.
Having participated in one such debate yesterday evening, one thing that was discussed off the podium was how the presidential election might impact turnout for the local municipal election. Some of the candidates were clearly of the mind that turnout would spike. While I expect some increase in local turnout, it is likely to be moderate for a presidential year if people think that Tennessee is already decided.
While my personal inclinations toward John McCain are obvious, Barack Obama's loss of Tennessee has as much to do with his choice not to campaign here as it does with any predispositions of the populace against him.
It is Mr. Obama's loss.