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Tennessee conservatives losing the fund-raising battle in Senate race
Oct 11, 2005 12:00 am
October 10, 2005
Hardcore conservatives in the Tennessee Republican Party have some difficult decisions to make after another round of reports in the U.S. Senate campaign fund-raising fight.
Amid all of the press release spin and verbal gesticulations from the campaigns of former Congressmen and current GOP Senate candidates Val Hilleary and Ed Bryant about the positive in their own numbers, there are some real dangers for Tennessee conservatives in the entire Senate fields' numbers from the third quarter.
Hilleary and Bryant, the two ultra-conservatives in the GOP primary, are losing the fund-raising battle.
The two Class of '94 alums have already won the game of name recognition with GOP primary voters after both of their failed statewide campaigns from 2002. While GOP fund-raising leader Corker is not polling in double digits in most places, Bryant and Hilleary appear to hold leads over all comers except each other.
Yet, with both of them in the race, the moderate middle is out raising the conservative right in the Tennessee Senate race.
Quarterly fund-raising disclosures released Friday show Hilleary and Bryant both topping $1 million raised for the campaign. Hilleary had a little better showing with $345,000 over the past three months to Bryant's $278,000.
It should be not only Corker's figures but presumed Democratic nominee Congressman Harold Ford Jr.'s that gives conservatives pause.
Corker and Ford were neck-in-neck for the quarter at $517,000 and $519,000 respectively. Both men's fund-raising totals have crested $3 million, with Corker's nearing $4 million.
If Hilleary and Bryant were simply one candidate, their case would be much stronger. Instead the money – and the grass roots support – for a conservative candidate is being split down the middle rather than marshaled toward winning the Senate seat.
Of course, the calls for either Hilleary or Bryant to drop out of the race began almost as soon as each man launched their respective campaigns.
Corker appears to be on track to raise somewhere around $6 million just for the primary should his fund-raising stay on track. Ford has only nominal opposition in his primary, with State Sen. Rosalind Kurita talking a good game but not even cracking the half million mark in her campaign coffer.
Corker is a moderate. It is a strength that is allowing him to raise tons of money for his campaign but will create an uphill run with conservative Republicans in suburban areas across the state – the new backbone of the party in Tennessee.
The inevitable outcome is a Republican primary winner with exhausted resources facing off against a very well-financed Democrat with the national party at his back.
Republicans are banking on a Memphis Ford being unelectable in Tennessee amid a special election challenge in Memphis over Ophelia Ford's state Senate victory and former State Sen. John Ford's federal indictments and ethics tribulations.
That may be an unsafe bet. President Bush coattails may be even shorter this time next year, the war more unpopular and gas prices still high. That spells trouble for Republicans everywhere.
Tennessee Republicans are going to have to consider thinning the herd in the Senate race looking toward 2006. Tennessee Republicans do not have a gubernatorial candidate and too many Senate candidates. Corker with his fund-raising in full bloom is not getting out of the race. Conservatives in the party need to consider which man is their best bet for 2006, Hilleary or Bryant.
Another fundraising quarter like the last one and neither man may be able to make the case they are the heir apparent in Tennessee to Bill Frist.