- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Bryant is loud, but is he winning?
Nov 22, 2005 12:00 am
November 21, 2005
POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Former Congressman, recent lobbyist and current U.S. Senate hopeful Ed Bryant appears to be getting some traction in his bid to be the conservative darling of Republican primary voters in Tennessee.
An endorsement by Tennessee Right to Life last week left Bryant's campaign crowing about "consensus" growing behind Bryant as the conservative candidate of choice for the Senate.
Yet, with no adequate, independent polling sizing up the race and a convincing argument by Bryant's conservative primary opponent Van Hilleary about the realities of "campaign physics" it remains to be seen if Bryant's campaign is getting any real separation of just talking loud and saying nothing.
Bryant's campaign compared to Hilleary's, another Class of '94 conservative vying for the right to replace Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, is certainly the loudest and proudest. Most of the volume on the Bryant side of the ledger comes from the blogosphere. An extended cadre of former Bryant staffers and campaign workers stretched out across the state beat the drums almost daily in their individual and supposedly independent blogs about Hilleary's shortcomings and Bryant's superiority.
The astonishingly early endorsement from TRTL in the Senate primary gives added volume to Bryant's case that he is the conservative chosen one set to lead Tennessee Red Staters away from the liberal wasteland they say either Bob Corker or Congressman Harold Ford Jr. would make of Tennessee.
Finally, there is the tone of the Bryant campaign itself, a decidedly less kind and less gentle version than the one that saw Bryant lose to former governor and now Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2002. Bryant's 2002 campaign was roundly criticized as being too soft on Alexander, an unabashed moderate who spends more time on substantive policy issues than scoring points with fiery rhetoric on hot button issues.
The Bryant .06 version has teeth the prior effort did not, often taking a scorched earth approach that has left no fellow candidate un-singed, whether they are fellow Republican primary travelers or Democrats.
And while Hilleary and his campaign have stood in the middle of the ring and traded punches with Bryant on tedious matters like whose polling is better and why, their answer to the Bryant campaign's volume is deceptively simple.
Hilleary, when pressed, makes an argument that "campaign physics" suggest strongly that Bryant cannot at this point have a lead in the primary. Hilleary points to the 2002 race where Bryant suffered a substantial primary loss to Alexander whereas Hilleary made it to the general election in the governor's race, losing by a hair to now Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Hilleary argues that he has literally millions of dollars more in statewide media – paid for and free – and an entire general election more name recognition than Bryant.
It is unclear why the state's conservative insiders appear presently to be leaning to Bryant, other than perhaps their wounded pride from 2002. Bryant barely made it out of the gate against Alexander, showing that a Howard Baker style moderate can still take a Newt Gingrich-era conservative to the wood shed in a Tennessee Republican primary. To a constituency that listens daily to talk radio telling them they are Tennessee's political chosen ones, the Bryant 2002 loss hurt – a lot.
Presently, there is no credible independent polling sizing up the Bryant/Hilleary match up. A Zogby "interactive" poll showing Bryant performing better against Democratic Senate candidates than Hilleary was Internet-based and not based on conventional and accepted, live polling methods.
Until a more typical poll comes out, the Bryant campaign will certainly be the loudest, with many of Tennessee's conservative insiders beating the drum. However, those folks only get one vote like everyone else. If Hilleary is correct about his own campaign physics, there will not be enough bandwidth in the blogosphere to make up the difference for Bryant.