Michael Cass has visited Houston County, one of just four rural counties carried by President Obama four years ago, and reports things could be different this year. Obama carried Houston by 70 votes in 2008. And with unemployment at 9.8 percent in August, it’s possible the Democratic winning streak will end when voters choose between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, on Nov. 6.
“Not too many people are satisfied,” said Albert Bell, 73, a retired General Motors engineer who owns a flower shop in Erin, a shamrock-happy town that makes the most of its Irish name. “They don’t like the way things are. The change Mr. Obama promised never happened.”
Even so, Bell, an Obama supporter in 2008, said he was undecided as of late September.
Residents of the predominantly white county said the unrepentant yellow-dog streak in many voters has a number of deep roots. A significant farming community and a big Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in neighboring Stewart County have made the federal government an important, often friendly presence.
“People don’t have a fear of government,” said Charles Uffelman, a University of Memphis freshman from Erin who was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention last month. “The county wouldn’t survive if not for a lot of the government programs we have.”
Gov. Bill Haslam talks about Mitt Romney with the Tennessean:
“He has a temperament that is more suited to leading and governing than it is to campaigning,” Haslam said in an interview with The Tennessean. “His skills are more on the analytical side. Analytical skill sets don’t really help you on the day to day of campaigning, but they really help you in running something as big as the United States of America.”
…Few Tennesseans have gotten to meet Romney personally. The GOP nominee did not campaign much in the state in 2008, and he probably won’t do so between now and Election Day.
But he has made a point of courting the state’s Republican leadership, bringing on board Haslam, his powerful political family and a healthy portion of Tennessee’s lawmakers and top fundraisers. He has visited the Nashville area during the current election cycle for at least three private fundraisers, though none included any public events.
…As a Republican governor of Massachusetts, he had to work with Democrats to pass his legislative priorities, including the state’s mandatory health insurance law. As lead organizer of the Salt Lake City Olympics, he had to bend to the demands of outside groups.
“He couldn’t run the Olympics like you would run your business. You just can’t. There’s just too many different points of power,” Haslam said.
“Certain people are better suited to govern than to campaign. He’s not a backslapper, or whatever phrase you want to use.”
While there may be no doubt about the outcome of the presidential election in Tennessee, the size of Mitt Romney’s Volunteer State victory is a matter of some speculation and dispute. There seems some general agreement, however, on the ramifications of the margin of Mitt on down-the-ballot races.
State Republican Chairman Chris Devaney says that, given increasing voter unhappiness with President Barack Obama, there’s a good chance that Romney will better the Tennessee performance of George W. Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008. Bush carried Tennessee by 14 percentage points, McCain by 15.
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester says, given voter unhappiness with Romney and increasing acceptance of Obama, there’s not any such chance.
But both party chairs agreed — albeit with some difference in details and considerable contrast in rhetorical remarks while relating them in recent interviews — that a presidential candidate with a big, double-digit margin has coattails.
Mitt Romney holds a seven-point lead over Barack Obama in Tennessee while Bob Corker has an almost two-to-one lead over Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Mark Clayton, according to a poll of 789 registered Tennessee voters by YouGov, a market research company, conducted Sept. 7-14..
An excerpt from the YouGov news release: Partisan loyalty is strong on both sides, as 91% of Democrats are sticking with Obama and 90% of Republicans are voting for Romney.
Independents are leaning heavily towards Romney, 54% for Romney and 28% for Obama.
Women favor Obama by 47%-44%, while men favor Romney by 55%-36%.
Obama has a strong lead in Memphis/ West (62%-32%), and all other regions currently favor Mitt Romney.
Older voters age 65+ favor Romney (69%-26%). All those under age 45 favor Obama, with the youngest age 18-29 (52%-37%) and those age 30-44 (51%-38%) producing similar results.
Incumbent Republican Senator Bob Corker holds a 49%-25% lead over Democratic Senate challenger Mark Clayton.
Voters in Tennessee lean slightly in favor of Republicans in contests for the U.S. House, with 41% intending to vote for the Republican candidate for the House in their district, and 37% for the Democrat. The poll was conducted online September 7-14, 2012.
Chris Carroll has collected some comments — or non-comments — from Tennessee Republicans on Mitt Romney’s belief that nearly half the nation is “dependent upon the government.” Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Bob Corker, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and Rep. Scott DesJarlais declined interview requests Thursday, sidestepping whether they agree with the Republican presidential nominee’s comment that 47 percent of Americans consider themselves “victims” who feel they’re “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
…”Having come from humble roots, Chuck Fleischmann understands that many of those receiving government benefits would prefer to be working,” Fleischmann spokesman Alek Vey said in a prepared statement that also characterized “handouts” as “ultimately detrimental to the success of the American people.”
…”I hope to have the opportunity to work with him to put the issue in the rearview mirror and put our focus back on being a great country in all ways,” Corker said in a statement.
At the state level, Gov. Bill Haslam distanced himself from Romney’s remarks, which included a prediction that the 47 percent “will vote for this president no matter what.” The governor described Romney’s comments as “political calculus.”
“He made a statement about, ‘Hey, it might be hard to win some folks’ votes,'” Haslam said at a news briefing Wednesday. “I think our response within government obviously is to care about everyone.”
Haslam serves as state chairman of Romney’s Tennessee campaign, but said “I’m not on the inside strategy of the campaign.”
On the other hand, this from the Kingsport Times-News: U.S. Rep. Phil Roe predicted Thursday that GOP challenger Mitt Romney will still win the presidency despite Romney’s “47 percent” remark about Americans who support incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama because they are dependent upon government.
“I might have stated it a little differently, but … we’ve got 105 million people who receive some (welfare) transfer payment…”
Gov. Bill Haslam comments on Mitt Romney’s famous ’47 percent’ remarks, as reported by TNReport. “I think he made a statement about, ‘Hey, it might be hard to win some folks’ votes,'” Haslam told reporters after a groundbreaking ceremony in Nashville Wednesday.
“I think our response in government obviously is to care about everyone. I’ll say this: There’s videos of a lot of candidates. You had President Obama say when he was running, ‘There’s just people who just cling to guns and God,’ and I think he’d go back and say, ‘That’s not quite what I meant by that.'”
Haslam added that the comments were likely part of the Romney team’s “political calculus” in terms of where he has the best chance to win votes.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bill Hagerty will take a temporary leave of absence to volunteer as a member of the Romney/Ryan presidential readiness team in Washington, D.C.
Hagerty’s unpaid leave will run from Monday, September 17 through Tuesday, November 6. Despite the scheduled time away, he will be in Nashville October 18 and 19 to oversee the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development.
The presidential readiness team is led by former Gov. Mike Leavitt of Utah. Hagerty served in a similar role for the 2008 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
“Bill’s background makes him a logical choice to serve in this role,” Haslam said. “He will do a great job.”
Deputy to the Governor Claude Ramsey will assume oversight of the department during Hagerty’s leave of absence.
“Creating and growing Tennessee jobs is a top priority for our administration, and I appreciate Claude for his willingness to serve in this capacity in the upcoming weeks,” Haslam continued. “His experience will be an asset to the department as we continue to focus on new jobs in Tennessee.”
— Update Note: The Tennessee Democratic Party does not approve. Excerpt from a party news release: “Once again Hagerty and Haslam have said to the people of Tennessee that their economic future is less important than the economic future of the special interests, millionaires and billionaires who would benefit from the top-down policies of Romney economics,” said Chip Forrester, Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party.
Hagerty will return to the department on Wednesday, November 7.
The Williamson County Republican Party this morning notified police about a package received last week that claims to include copies of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s tax returns hacked from an accounting office in Franklin, reports The Tennessean. A letter in the package corresponds to an incredible claim posted anonymously on a website popular among computer hackers that boasts of having downloaded copies of the tax returns obtained by hacking into systems via PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Franklin office. Whoever is behind the message is threatening to release the filings by the end of the month unless they receive $1 million.
For the same price, someone interested in seeing the returns made public could guarantee that action, according to the letter. Whomever pays first, wins.
The author of the online letter also states copies of Romney’s tax returns were left with the county Republican and Democratic offices, and on Wednesday morning both those organizations confirmed that they received suspicious looking packages containing a flash drive and a copy of the letter.
Jean Barwick, executive director of the Williamson County Republican Party, held up a small manila envelope in her office that she said contained the drive and the letter. Scrawled in green lettering across one side are the words “For Rep Learders” (sic).
Barwick said she found the package Friday and called the state GOP office to see if they’d received a similar envelope. Barwick did not call the police until Wednesday, she said, because she didn’t think the extortion attempt seemed credible.
An anonymous individual or group is alleging that they have gained “all available 1040 tax forms” of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by accessing computers in the Franklin office of the professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, reports the City Paper. An anonymous posting on a file sharing website states that PwC has been hacked. This same website has been used by hackers who have claimed to have infiltrated computers from companies like Apple in the past.
An excerpt from one message states:
“Romney’s 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied. A package was sent to the PWC on suite 260 with a flash drive containing a copy of the 1040 files, plus copies were sent to the Democratic office in the county and copies were sent to the GOP office in the county at the beginning of the week also containing flash drives with copies of Romney’s tax returns before 2010. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms were scanned and included with the packages, taken from earlier 1040 tax forms gathered and stored on the flash drives.
The group will release all available files to the public on the 28 of September, 2012.”
News release from Tennessee Republican Party:
Raleigh, NC– Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus and the Republican Party Chairmen of North Carolina’s border announced today their unified efforts to defeat President Obama and the Democratic ticket in North Carolina.
As solidly red states, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee are in a unique position to contribute to the Republican National Committee, NCGOP, and Romney for President’s already immensely successful efforts in North Carolina. Each state party today has committed resources to turn North Carolina red in November through efforts that include volunteer deployment, calling in to North Carolina from Victory Offices in their own states, and also utilizing the RNC’s Social Victory Center to call into the state.
In May of this year, the South Carolina Republican Party pledged at least 1,000 volunteers to North Carolina’s Victory efforts and have already begun volunteer efforts across the state. In fact, dozens of South Carolinians are in Charlotte today to help out with North Carolina’s Super Saturday efforts.
“Today’s commitments from the Republican Party Chairmen of Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee will help ensure North Carolina defeats Barack Obama and Democrats up and down the ballot on Election Day,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.