Wednesday, October 20, 2004


The presidential race in Tennessee looks different according to different pollsters.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2004 at 4:00 AM

EENIE, MEENIE... In 2000, Democratic nominee Al Gore sealed his doom quite as much by narrowly losing home-state TennesseeÕs 11 votes as he did by ending up on the short end of FloridaÕs celebrated recounts. Those 11 votes would have put him over. Depending on what poll youÕre looking at, the Volunteer State is either up for grabs again in 2004 or going bigtime for the GOPÕs President Bush. The last Zogby Poll had it close.Ñeven though the Democratic standard-bearer this time, John Kerry, is a supposed ÒliberalÓ from far-off Massachusetts. Indeed, though there were occasions both in early summer and early fall when President Bush owned a substantial lead over Senator Kerry, the Zogby PollÕs soundings have fairly consistently shown the race to be tight. At least three times Kerry has been ahead. The poll taken of likely state voters on October 7th showed the GOPÕs Bush to be leading Kerry by only a single percentage point, 49% to 48%, with independent Ralph Nader at 3%. That sample, of course, was taken after the first presidential debate, one which most observers regarded as a Kerry win. The previous Zogby poll, on September 21st, had it Bush 52%; Kerry 46%, and Nader2%. And those previous Zogby figures are in the same universe with findings released this week by pollster Ken Blake of Middle Tennessee State University, whose soundings Ð done of 624 Tennesseans in the October 4-15 time frame Ð show Bush over Kerry in Tennessee, by a margin of 50% to 39%. Reactions to the two polls reflected partisan leaning. Said Shelby County Republican chairman Kemp Conrad, ÒWeÕve always thought the president had a double-digit lead, because I donÕt think the liberal ideology of Senator Kerry, who is even more liberal than Al Gore was, plays any better in Tennessee than GoreÕs did. That said, weÕre not going to be complacent, and weÕre going to bend our efforts in Shelby County to cutting GoreÕs 2000 margin here, some 49,000 votes, in half. ThatÕs very doable.Ó But David Cocke, head of the Kerry-Edwards effort in Shelby County, saw things differently: ÒThe Zogby poll historically has been more accurate than others, and weÕre encouraged not only by the last one but by the whole series of state polls ZogbyÕs done this year. They make it clear that Tennessee is highly competitive, and we think we can bring it back into the Democratic fold.Ó Interestingly, both Conrad and Cocke expressed reservations about the methodologies of the polls showing their man behind. And, one way or another, the accuracy of preference polls has increasingly come under scrutiny in the current presidential election year. (See editorial.) MooreÕs the pity: The jury is still out on what happened to the much-ballyhooed appearance of Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore, who was scheduled to be the headliner at a Democratic Party rally on Saturday at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church. The rally was held, but sans Moore. His place was filled by various local speakers, including former Shelby County Commissioner Vasco Smith, State Representatives Joe Towns and Henry Brooks, Shelby County Democratic chairman Kathryn Bowers; Cocke; local Kerry-Edwards coordinator Kerry Fulmer; and lawyer Ruby Wharton. Local Democrats had been given the bad news of a Moore cancellation on Friday afternoon via email and telephone. As Bowers put it in part: ÒÉIn light of the fact that Mr. Michael Moore, the Director of Fahrenheit 9/11, has been ill with the walking pneumonia and the planned demonstration by the local Republican Party, we are relieving Mr. Moore of his commitment to come to Memphis to help us with our kick-off for Early Voting Educational Awareness RallyÉ.Ó But Conrad, whose Republicans held their own rally at local party headquarters on Saturday, was skeptical. From a Conrad email: ÒÉHe [Moore] cited illness as his reason for canceling, though he spoke at UNLV and appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night, and he is still scheduled to speak at an event in Madison, WI today. There was not even a mention of a Memphis visit on his official web site yesterdayÉ..Ó In any case, Moore was a no-show. The Shelby County CommissionÕs vote on a new commissioner to fill the seat of Linda Rendtorff, now director of county services, was due to happen, finally, on Wednesday of this week after at least two re-schedulings. Front-runners were still Billy Orgel and Wyatt Bunker, with leading fallback candidates Mike Ritz, Mike Carpenter, and George Flinn Ð the latter of whom was visibly picking up steam among both Republicans and Democrats. Governor Phil Bredesen, in Memphis last week for the swearing-in of state Criminal Court of Appeals Judge J.C. McLin, was fresh from two West Tennessee stump appearances with Lt. Gov. John Wilder, who is in a close race with Republican challenger Ron Stallings. Said Bredesen: ÒIÕm for the DemocratÉ.IÕm for Governor Wilder strongly,Ó though he acknowledged, ÒThereÕs no question that weÕve had our differences. WeÕve put those behind us.Ó

Governor Bredesen swears in Judge McLin last week, as Mollie McLin looks on.

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