Ed Bryant for Governor?

Recently, a friend from Memphis told me about a movement in West Tennessee to get Ed Bryant to drop out of his Senate race, and instead challenge Phil Bredesen for the governor’s office. I don’t know what the odds are of Bryant doing this, but it is interesting to consider.

In the Senate race, Bryant is up against fellow conservative and friend Van Hilleary, who lost in a squeaker to Bredesen in 2002, and moderate Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, who has plenty of money and backing from powerful Republicans. Corker, however, is not backed by certain groups within the GOP, including Team GOP and conservative blogger Bill Hobbs, who consider him a liberal. Matthew White has suggested that conservatives should unite around Bryant, but so far they still seem to be united. In this divided vote situation, Corker will have a huge advantage.

Meanwhile, Phil Bredesen is being challenged by B.C. “Scooter” Clippard. Clippard may be a great guy. Or he may not be. I have no idea, and neither do most voters. Obviously, Ed Bryant has much stronger name recognition than Clippard.

But can he beat Bredesen? Perhaps. As Bill Hobbs has pointed out:

Bredesen won narrowly in 2002, defeating Republican Van Hilleary by a scant 52,657 votes out of the 1,618,613 total votes cast for the two men. It would take only a small shift to reverse Bredesen’s 51-48 percentage-point win. Viewed against those numbers, Bredesen’s plan to cut 320,000 people off of TennCare looks like a big political gamble.

And what if Bredesen succeeds in cutting those people from the rolls – or implements his alternative plan of cutting out TennCare’s prescription drugs benefit? Would he gain enough new votes from Republican taxpayers tired of funding TennCare’s excessive and inexorably rising costs to offset the tens of thousands of Democratic votes he’s bound to lose among the 320,000 former TennCare beneficiaries (not to mention their family members) whose healthcare he took away?

I doubt it.

Let’s also take it a step further, and say that Harold Ford Jr. does not enter the race (concluding the negative press of his uncle is too much to overcome, and opting instead to seek a House leadership position or a high post in a future Democratic administration). That would essentially assure that the Democratic nominee would be Rosalind Kurita, obviously much less daunting than Ford. Neither Bredesen nor Kurita is likely to energize the Democratic base, which could lead to them staying home on election day. Meanwhile, conservatives will be voting in droves in order to hold their Senate seat, and because of an amendment to ban gay marriage. Could that allow Bryant to slip into the governor’s mansion, and elect either Corker or Hilleary to the Senate? It just might, goes the theory.

I personally like Bryant, and think he will excel either as governor or as senator. I have no idea if he’ll jump over to the governor’s race. But if he did, it certainly would be interesting.

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