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Buddy System: Barack Stumps with Ford; McCain Boosts Corker

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Both candidates for the U.S. Senate had helping hands Sunday, as Illinois senator Barack Obama spearheaded a mass rally for Democrat Harold Ford Jr. in Nashville; also in the state capitol was Republican Bob Corker, who was joined in a late-evening reception by GOP senators John Thune of South Dakota and John McCain of Arizona. Ford continued to insist that private polls showed the two campaigns in a dead heat, while Corker, basking in a published 12-point lead, nevertheless said his momentum required steady focus at the end.

Obama and Ford appeared, along with Governor Phil Bredesen and Democratic members of the congressional and legislative delegations,  at an outdoor rally outside
Nashville's City Hall. The Illinois senator introduced Ford after evoking the party's
New Deal tradition, using 1935 - the year of Social Security's creation - as his baseline. For continued in that vein, underscoring the positive role of government in people's affairs, but not before asking rhetorically, "How can I be against gay marriage and for the sanctity of life and still be a Democrat?"

He then went on to espouse the social mission of government as yet another aspect of faith. Not only he and Obama, but Nashville mayor Bill Purcell made a point of citing scripture, making it clear that one of the central premises of the Ford campaign is to woo back religious voters who had drifted into the Republican camp over the last couple of decades.

After the rally, Ford senior political adviser Michael Powell dismissed reports of a widening gap between Corker and Gord as "nonsense," saying, "Corker couldn't draw a crowd like this with two weeks of planning!"

Corker's own Nashville event, at a Vanderbilt-area bistro called Cabana, drew a smaller but equally enthusiastic gathering. Joining Thune and McCain on the platform with the GOP nominee were Senator Lamar Alexander and 7th District congressman Marsha Blackburn.

All the Republican dignitaries downplayed the party line somewhat, emphasizing that the Senate race was between two individuals - one of whom, Corker, better embodied what Alexander referred to as "Tennessee values."

Corker himself, as well as campaign manager Tom Ingram, were cautious about touting some of the wider polling gaps favoring Corker over Ford - apparently accepting as a given that a larger-than-usual black vote in the state's urban centers would boost Democrat Ford's numbers somewhat.

outcome, and Corker insisted that he had done better in early voting, disputing Ford's earlier claim to the contrary.

Jackson Baker

See later updates in "Political Beat"

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