Round Three In the FirstThose of us who live in Tennessee's First Congressional District know that in these parts, old political grudges die hard. Most political fights here are internal party squabbles between Republicans, often going back years before the contest or contests which made the fight public. As many of us suspected after the 2008 Republican Congressional Primary, former Congressman David Davis is sending every signal in the book except the official word that he wants a third round with his old nemesis, former Johnson City Mayor and current Congressman Phil Roe:
It’s hard to miss the personal component to the rivalry. A 2010 primary matchup would mark the third consecutive election in which the two pols competed for the seat. Davis won the first time around in 2006, capturing the nomination with 22 percent of the vote in a crowded primary for the open seat. In the solidly conservative northeastern Tennessee-based 1st District, which hasn’t elected a Democrat in more than a century, the Republican nomination was tantamount to victory.
In that contest, a so-called “friends and neighbors” primary, the outcome was largely determined by each candidate’s ability to turn out voters in his own backyard. But in 2008, the primary had a different dynamic — just Roe and Davis going head to head.
Davis was “an incumbent congressman, and none of us like to be beat, and none of us like to see things being said about us,” Spicer said, recalling that Roe’s campaign took aim at Davis over everything, from his handling of constituent services to earmarks to the high cost of gas prices during the summer of 2008. “Anytime you have a Republican primary, and anytime you have someone who took an incumbent like Phil did, you’re going to have some hurt feelings.”
The razor-thin outcome — Roe edged Davis by just 486 votes in the August 2008 primary — only exacerbated the tensions. Davis refused to concede for almost a week and argued that Democrats — who he said viewed Roe as more moderate than himself — had organized en masse to vote for Roe in the open primary election.
It is an old cliche to say this, but their aren't enough real Democrats around here to fit in an old phone booth. Most of the so-called "Democrats" that I know who live in my town congregate at places like the drugstore or Allen-Surrett's Hardware and shoot the bull about everything from their cattle to the tobacco crop to their health to the weather and their idea of being a Democrat consists of not liking the Bush Administration and moaning about certain Republicans. Further, the particular Republicans they complain of are often people that other Republicans have a problem with. Ask these same people how many voted for Barack Obama, and you will learn very quickly how few are really Democrats (I know a few people who confess to voting for Obama, but I can count them on one hand). Discuss issues with this same sampling of folks, and one quickly discovers that they are essentially Republicans who call themselves Democrats because their families have always been Democrats. On most of the important issues facing East Tennesseans ranging from taxes to business development to social issues like abortion and the sanctity of marriage, these "Democrats" have Republican positions (many do not realize it).
Every little town and country precinct in this constituency has places that one might call the local newsstands, the centers of town gossip and the places for all kinds of discussions, including those to do with politics. What Democrats may be found at these establishments are pretty representative of Democrats in the district as a whole. True liberal/Leftist Democrats are around, but are few and far between. Frankly, there are not enough real liberals here to impact an election from an ideological perspective. The class of Democrats mentioned above likely did vote for Phil Roe, but did so for no other reason than that Roe ran a better campaign and met with more people in more places than David Davis did ("That Phil Roe is such a nice man!"). Davis had to have lost Republican votes to lose as an incumbent in a two-man primary in this district-period.
Both men are risking a tremendous amount politically by renewing their fued and taking it to the ballot box for a third time. If David Davis loses, even by a narrow margin, his political career may be over. If Davis beats Roe by a narrow margin, Roe's future may depend on how he deals with defeat. Both Roe and Davis have plenty of potential opposition, but in Roe's case his opposition often dislikes him but feels the same way about Davis ten times over. Phil Roe is beatable by several people who might run against him if David Davis is not a factor. In order to insure that his seat is safe, Phil Roe cannot just beat David Davis, he must whip him soundly.
David Davis' big problem is that Phil Roe has voted conservatively for the most part, and Davis will have trouble running against Roe's record. Roe will not be able to claim the advantage of an incumbent, because he himself proved that incumbents can be beaten in the First District.
It will be a long, hard, expensive slog of a campaign...
(Hat Tip: Kleinheider)