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Thompson versus Bredesen in 2006?
Dec 21, 2004 12:00 am
Leading Tennessee Republicans seem to agree former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson would be the best candidate in their party to challenge popular Democrat Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2006.
What is not clear is if Thompson is actually interested in seeking elected office again.
Incoming Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis told The Lebanon Democrat Thompson is likely the best potential candidate the GOP has to offer to unseat Bredesen.
"Would he (Thompson) be a good candidate? No question. Is he the best candidate? Probably. Is he interested in running? You will have to ask him," Davis said Monday.
A call to Thompson's Washington D.C. law office was not returned Monday.
Davis, who takes over officially as party chairman Jan. 3, has a lengthy personal history with Thompson including serving as the former senator's statewide director.
When asked, Davis compared Thompson's popularity and presence to former President Ronald Reagan, an actor like Thompson.
Davis also hedged when asked if he planned to court Thompson to face Bredesen.
"He is the one guy who could come in and immediately run a very competitive race against a very popular governor," Davis said. "He is a very good friend of mine, and I am sure we will be talking about a lot of things."
Who Republicans will run against Bredesen is becoming somewhat of a party quandry despite an overwhelming win in 2004 by the Bush/Cheney ticket in Tennessee.
Bredesen was the first Democrat to win statewide office in Tennessee in over a decade in 2002, campaigning on a fiscally conservative platform that promised to curtail government spending and end any talk of a state income tax.
Bredesen also promised to either fix or kill the state's ailing TennCare health insurance program for the state's indigent and uninsurable, something Bredesen appears to be ready to make good on in the opening weeks of 2005.
However, Bredesen also saw control of the State Senate swing to the GOP for the first time since Reconstruction in this fall's election despite his campaigning for incumbent Democrats.
Thompson, who stepped down from his Senate seat suddenly in 2002 for family reasons, has been most visible of late not in the political arena but in Hollywood, starring in NBC's venerable Law and Order series.
Republican campaign operatives in Tennessee say there are other candidates who could successfully unseat Bredesen, but agree Thompson would be the GOP's dream come true for 2006.
"He is a household name," Nashville-based GOP campaign consultant Darren Morris said. "His name identification and favorable and unfavorable ratings are probably as good as Gov. Bredesen's. He is not the only one who can beat Bredesen, but he would immediately be the frontrunner. He is definitely the 800 pound gorilla if he wants it."
(Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)