Politics » Politics Feature

Facing a Long-Odds Battle, Senate Candidate Tuke Keeps on Keepin' On



A feel-good meeting it was, the Democratic get-out-the-vote rally held Sunday in a converted store-front on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Among the several officials who turned up were Shelby County mayor A C Wharton and 9th District congressman Steve Cohen. And among the several candidates there were city council aspirant Paul Shaffer and U.S. Senate candidate Bob Tuke.

As is the custom at any political gathering, there were some distinct exaggerations, a whole lot of blarney, and an exhortatory optimism that was -- shall we say, arguably off-center in its expectations of universal good fortune for the entire Democratic Party slate.

One of the luminaries present, however, city councilman Myron Lowery, felt compelled to address a home truth or two when it came his time to speak. First off, he noted something publicly that had been on the minds of almost all the Democratic cadres at the event. "Tennessee has been given up by Barack," Lowery said bluntly.

He thereby gave voice to what everybody knew -- that the Obama-Biden campaign organization, despite having laid claim to Democratic national chairman Howard Dean's concept of a "50-state strategy," and despite having raised a formidable amount of money, including a record $150 million in September alone, had decided to bypass Tennessee, doling out only a modest amount of expense money for Nika Jackson the campaign's representative in Memphis, and one other state employee.

No money for anything else, meaning that those Obama-Biden signs you might see here and there were paid for by private fund-raising activities here and elsewhere in Tennessee. Just as Lowery said, and, despite conjectures here and there, based on a favorable poll or two, that the state could be competitive in the presidential race, Tennessee had indeed been given up by Obama's campaign.

As Lowery also noted, that seemed odd, given that only two years ago, then 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr. had carried the Democratic standard and narrowly lost to Republican Bob Corker in a U.S. Senate race.

Turning to Tuke, a Nashville lawyer and former state Democratic chairman who took up the Senate race when few others were willing to, Lowery complimented the candidate for taking his challenge to Republican Lamar Alexander seriously and excoriated those Democrats who were "hanging on to the coattails of our incumbent senator, Bob, and they really let you go."

That was said before the arrival at the event of Wharton, who is among those Democrats who have publicly endorsed Republican Alexander. Another late arrival was Rep. Cohen, whose presence at a recent Alexander fund-raiser had been boasted by the incumbent senator's organization. Once on the site, however, Cohen included a reference in his remarks to the fact that Tuke's election would bring the Democrats closer to the filibuster-proof total of 60 in the Senate.

That was a fact mentioned to the Democratic group by Tuke himself, Obnama's original state director, as a compelling argument for their support. (See clip one, above)

Said Tuke: "...[W]hen Barack Obama becomes president of the United States, he's gonna need to have 60 senators in the United States Senate in order to vote for his legislative agenda so that it's more than just a promise and more than just a dream, but a reality. And, ladies and gentlemen,I volunteer...."

in a brief Q&A afterward (see video, below), Tuke disputed as "old" and out-of-date published polls showing him trailing Alexander statewide by a two-to-one margin. He said he was confident a heavy Democratic turnout would make him competitive and noted he was spending at least half his time campaigning in Shelby County. That was the same strategy he had pursued in his winning primary race in August.

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