President Barack Obama paid tribute today to former Tennessee Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt, presenting her with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, reports Michael Collins. At a White House ceremony this afternoon, Obama reflected on Summitt’s legendary career at Tennessee, her status as a role model to the young women she coached, and her tenacity in confronting the health problem that led to her retirement last spring.
“Anyone feeling sorry for Pat will find themselves on the receiving end of that famous glare,” Obama said.
Summitt was among more than a dozen political and cultural legends to receive the medal. The award is given to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Summitt, 59, stepped down as the University of Tennessee women’s head basketball coach in April, just eight months after disclosing that she has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
Her remarkable, 38-year career included 1,098 victories and eight national championships. She was named NCAA Coach of the Year eight times and has been a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame since 1999. She now holds the position of head coach emeritus at UT.
Besides Summitt, others receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; singer and songwriter Bob Dylan; astronaut John Glenn; novelist Toni Morrison; Israeli President Shimon Peres; and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stephens. Note: The state’s Republican congressmen rushed out statements praising Pat Summitt, but somehow forgot to mention that guy who made the presentation they were applauding. A sampler is below.
John Wolfe Jr. filed suit in Federal District Court in Little Rock, Ark., Friday afternoon against the Arkansas Democratic Party claiming its refusal to grant him the delegates he won Tuesday in a binding presidential primary “effectively disenfranchises each of the 67,604 voters who cast a vote for Wolfe.”
More from the New Orleans Times-Picayune: Wolfe, a Chattanooga attorney who won 42 percent in a head-to-head contest against President Barack Obama, also claims in his lawsuit that the announcement by the Arkansas Democratic Party in advance of the primary that it would not grant him any delegates no matter how well he did in the voting was “a purposeful attempt to tamp down voter enthusiasm for Wolfe in order to ensure a primary victory for Barack Obama,” and amounted to “a callous interference in the electoral process” and a “deliberate violation” of Wolfe’s due process rights.
Wolfe said he plans to file a similar suit against the Louisiana Democratic Party for its failure to grant him his proportional share of the delegates in the three congressional districts in which he won more than 15 percent of the vote Louisiana’s March 24 Democratic primary.
In Kentucky’s closed primary, about 42 percent of registered Democrats who voted selected “uncommitted.” In Arkansas’ open primary, voters could select a ballot for either party, and unofficial returns showed a Tennessee attorney, John Wolfe, drawing almost 42 percent on the Democratic side.
On the Republican side, Romney won Arkansas with 68 percent of the vote and Kentucky with 67 percent, according to unofficial returns.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were on the ballot in both states. Santorum and Gingrich have both suspended their campaigns. Paul announced last week that he would no longer compete in the primaries, though he is still trying to amass national delegates at state conventions.
— Note: Wolfe, who lives in Chattanooga and has run unsuccessfully for various offices in Tennessee (including the 3rd Congressional District seat), got just seven write-in votes in Tennessee’s March 6 presidential primary. President Obama, the only candidate on the Democratic ballot, got 80,705 votes while 10,497, or 13 percent, voted “uncommitted.”
See also the Chattanooga Times-Free Press story on Wolfe’s Arkansas showing, written before the final results were in. Wolfe said Tuesday the voters should pick their candidate, not party bosses.
“They are treating this election like the coronation of a king, but this country declared war on that kind of monarchy rule in 1776,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe ran unsuccessfully for Congress four times in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District and also lost in his bids for Chattanooga mayor and state senator from Chattanooga. His campaigns are largely self-financed, and he said he has had to continue his law practice in Chattanooga while campaigning in presidential primaries in New Hampshire, Louisiana, Arkansas and, next week, in Texas.
“I’m like David fighting Goliaths in these races, but so far I haven’t found the right pebble [to strike down Goliath],” Wolfe said. “I know a lot of people don’t like what the president has done, including me.”
President Barack Obama has pulled into a virtual tie with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in traditionally conservative Tennessee, according to a new Vanderbilt University pol.. The poll also found that Tennesseans weren’t thrilled with the Republican-led General Assembly’s frequent focus on social, cultural and religious issues this year. But Republican Gov. Bill Haslam managed to remain above the fray, winning approval from 61 percent of poll participants.
“Tennessee is clearly a red state,” said John Geer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt. “But these data show that the public is much more moderate than our state legislature.”
The poll of 1,002 Tennessee residents who are 18 and older found 42 percent would vote for Romney and 41 percent for Obama if the election were held now….Geer cautioned that the registered voters among the poll participants favored Romney by a larger margin, with 47 percent saying they would vote for the former Massachusetts governor and 40 percent for Obama. He said that’s a more likely outcome in November.
“It’s not that close a race,” Geer said, predicting Romney would prevail with little trouble. “I suspect a lot of hard-core conservatives are still getting used to the idea of Romney as the nominee, and by the time the general election comes along, they’ll be in lock step with Romney. But right now there’s a small chunk that are still being cautious.”
Three of every four poll participants said they were registered to vote.
…Just 15 percent said lawmakers “spent the appropriate amount of time addressing social, cultural or religious issues” during this year’s session, and 22 percent said they didn’t spend enough time on them. A larger number, 42 percent, said lawmakers spent too much time on such matters.
…Just 22 percent of the people surveyed said it was more important to protect the rights of handgun owners to carry their weapons into any commercial establishment than it was to protect the rights of business owners to set their own rules. More than 7 in 10 said the opposite.
Tennessee contributions to presidential candidates reached $3.65 million by the end of March, down from $7.3 million at the same time four years ago, according to a Tennessean Washington Bureau analysis of campaign finance data. The donations to candidates don’t include money flowing to various super PACs, which are largely pulling funds from bigger states and swing states. Fundraisers peg much of the blame on the economy, which scraped bottom between elections.
As the state’s unemployment rate climbed to a peak of 11 percent in the summer of 2009, donors closed their wallets — and many of them haven’t opened them again, fundraisers say.
“People that used to be able to give $5,000 now give $2,500,” said Chris Devaney, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
“The people involved are still donors, but it’s just not as strong as it once was. Political donations are disposable income.”
Devaney said he has noticed a particular dip in donations from the construction and real estate industries, which were hit hard by the recession.
Tennessee donations to Democrats tumbled from just under $2 million four years ago to about $790,000 this year — a 60 percent drop. That’s pretty close to the 63 percent drop in contributions to Democrats nationwide, attributable in part to the lack of a Democratic presidential primary.
Tennessee donations to Republicans decreased by 46 percent, from $5.34 million to $2.86 million. That’s a more dramatic drop than the 31 percent GOP fundraising decline nationally. But four years ago, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson was running for the Republican presidential nomination, boosting the state’s GOP campaign donations.
Thompson had received $3.43 million from Tennessee donors by this time in 2008, while Arizona Sen. John McCain — who ultimately won the nomination — had raised just $565,800.
A sentence from a New York Times political blog on the Republican National Committee declaring Mitt Romney the party’s presumptive presidential nominee and moving to coordinate efforts: Ward Baker, a Tennessee-based political consultant, will serve as another go-between for the political operations at the committee and the campaign.
Baker, a veteran political operative, has been a consultant to several Tennessee campaigns, starting at the state legislature level.
About 450 people are expected at a Nashville Democratic fundraising luncheon with First Lady Michelle Obama as the featured speaker, according to the Tennessean, quoting Obama campaign officials. The 11 a.m. fundraiser (will be held) on the 21st floor of The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, a downtown office tower… With the least expensive tickets going for $500, the event — including a musical performance by Emmylou Harris — should raise at least $225,000 for the campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
….Michelle Obama has been an important fundraising magnet for her husband’s campaign and is scheduled to head to Pittsburgh from Nashville for a $250-a-head event with donors later today. A $500-a-person event she headlined in San Francisco on March 30 drew 350 supporters, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Charles Robert Bone, a Nashville attorney who is a fundraising “bundler” for the Obama re-election effort, said the first lady is “a tremendous asset for the campaign.”
“She’s been a wonderful first lady, certainly has been a great role model for our children and for young women,” Bone said.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Tennessee lawyer who finished a distant second to President Barack Obama in Louisiana’s Democratic primary in March won’t get any Louisiana delegates to the party’s national convention.
The state Democratic Party says John Wolfe failed to comply with the party’s delegate selection plan. He missed deadlines to certify an authorized representative for his campaign in the state and to provide a necessary statement of participation to the state party.
Wolfe got almost 12 percent of the statewide vote. Analysts said he would have earned an estimated three delegates, based on his totals in some congressional districts. Louisiana would have been one of the only states where Democratic delegates would have gone to an Obama opponent.
Wolfe didn’t return a call placed to his Chattanooga phone number Monday.
Louisiana sends 71 delegates to the national convention. Sixty-four will be pledged to Obama. Seven “super delegates” are uncommitted but they include prominent state party leaders, including chairman Buddy Leach and U. S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who are considered certain to support Obama.
Wolfe was one of three little-known challengers to Obama on the March 24 ballot. Wolfe, on his campaign website, says Obama is too cozy with Wall Street and corporate interests and says corporate tax rates are too low.
— Note: Wolfe was the Democratic nominee against Chuck Fleischmann in the 2010 3rd Congressional District election He had previously run unsuccessfully for various other offices, including the Tennessee state Senate and Chattanooga mayor. He was also on the presidential ballot in New Hampshire earlier this year.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney is halfway to clinching the Republican nomination for president.
The former Massachusetts governor inched up to 572 delegates on Monday — exactly half the 1,144 needed — after the Tennessee Republican Party finalized delegate totals from its March 6 primary. Results in several congressional districts were too close to call on election night, leaving three delegates unallocated.
Romney got all three delegates. He also picked up an endorsement from a New Hampshire delegate who had been awarded to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Huntsman dropped out of the race in January and endorsed Romney.
Romney and his chief rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, have been sparring over the delegate count for weeks. Romney’s campaign says there is no way for Santorum to reach the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, portraying the race as all but over. Santorum’s campaign says Romney’s numbers are inflated, raising the prospect of a contested convention in August.
According to the Associated Press tally, Romney has more than twice as many delegates as Santorum. Santorum has 273 delegates, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 135 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 50.
Romney has won 54 percent of the primary and caucus delegates so far, putting him on pace to clinch the nomination in June. Romney could substantially add to his lead Tuesday, when 95 delegates will be at stake in three primaries, in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Tuesday’s contests mark the midway point in the race for delegates.
A total of 2,286 delegates are slated to attend the party’s national convention in Tampa, Fla. — 2,169 will be selected through primaries, caucuses and state conventions, while 117 are members of the Republican National Committee, free to support any candidate they choose.
Santorum, who has won 27 percent of the primary and caucus delegates so far, would need 74 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination before the national convention. Gingrich would need 86 percent and Paul would have to win nearly all of them, which won’t happen because most states award delegates proportionally.
News release from Americans Elect:
NASHVILLE, TN, MARCH 28, 2012 – On Thursday morning, Americans Elect Tennessee
delegate volunteers Ronn Huff and Chris Farrar will file the Americans Elect petition with the Tennessee Elections Division for a line on the ballot for the 2012 presidential election. Americans Elect collected the signatures of 72,662 voters in Tennessee – far surpassing the state requirement of 40,039 – in support of more choice on the ballot this November.
Volunteers Huff and Farrar, a Democrat and Republican, respectively, are enthusiastic that a fundamental change to the nominating system will open up the political process in Tennessee and across the country, giving voters the chance to elect leaders who represent people, not parties.
Americans Elect invites all local media to meet in front of the Elections Office on the 9th floor of the Snodgrass Tower for a press briefing about Americans Elect’s national online primary and efforts in Tennessee before volunteers Ronn Huff and Chris Farrar submit AE’s petition for a line on the ballot for a directly-elected presidential unity ticket.
WHEN: Thursday, March 29th at 11 a.m. CST
WHAT: Filing Americans Elect petition for Tennessee ballot access
WHO: Ronn Huff, AE Tennessee delegate leader
Chris Farrar, AE Sewanee campus leader
WHERE: Tennessee Division of Elections
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 9th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
(Must present government-issued photo ID to enter building)