published Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Stuck with Chuck?: The numbers say maybe not for long

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann speaks to the Hamilton County Pachyderms on Monday at the Hamilton County Republican Headquarters.
Congressman Chuck Fleischmann speaks to the Hamilton County Pachyderms on Monday at the Hamilton County Republican Headquarters.
Photo by Shawn Paik /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In contemplating the fact that we're stuck with Chuck Fleischmann at least until Democrat Mary Headrick takes a shot at knocking him out of office in November, think about the potential downside of voting early.

In Hamilton County alone, 21,404 people voted early -- roughly a 10th of of the county's registered voters. Of those early balloters, 15,473 of them asked for and voted on the Republican primary ballot.

Early voting began on July 18 -- about the same time Fleischmann launched one of the ugliest, negative campaigns seen here. Over the next two weeks, he unleashed at least four television attack ads and at least two mailers, including one with a faked photograph intended to depict his challenger Weston Wamp burning a passport beside a partial quote about immigration amnesty taken out of context.

By the time the faked photo mailer landed in mailboxes across the county -- about July 25 -- nearly 8,000 people had voted early in the Republican primary, and it was too late for voter disgust with Fleischmann's underhandedness to bite him with any of those votes that might have been cast for him.

But it did bite with some, and it very nearly turned the two-term incumbent out. Republican disgust with Fleischmann's tactics (even while Wamp deliberately stayed positive) was evidenced on the day before the election with a full-page newspaper ad decrying the "dishonest" and "negative" campaign. The ad, urging support for Wamp, was signed by about 150 local and prominent Republicans, among others.

But the incumbent's desperation ads had been timed carefully. By July 29, when there finally was enough buzz about the negative ads to prompt news stories, early voting was nearly over and 10,000 to 12,000 votes had been cast on Republican ballots just in Hamilton County. Wamp lost the county by 84 votes. He lost the entire 11-county 3rd District by a mere 1,469 votes.

For voters, one moral to this story is stark: Don't think you know the mettle and ethics of a candidate until you see how he or she behaves in the final hard-fought days of a campaign. It's entirely possible that in this race, plenty of those early voters might like their votes back.

But all is not lost. If Fleischmann's razor-thin win shows anything, it is that this two-term congressman is incredibly vulnerable. He's an incumbent who wins his primary against a 27-year-old with no experience in political office by less than 1,500 votes.

Fleischmann and the big-money conservative movement nationally know that he is a broken eggshell. Why else the rush to negativity and deception at the end of a campaign by a guy always quick to wave a flag, talk about prayer and offer a tearful "I care about the people ..."?

Why else did more than half of Fleischmann's contributions come late and from outside the 3rd District, including 12 of 16 special interest PAC contributions from the Washington area, Detroit, St. Louis, Richmond and North Carolina to support four negative TV ads and two negative mailers in the final weeks of the campaign?

The congressman's vulnerability will only be increased in November.

And -- heaven forbid -- should he win then, too, his weaknesses will haunt him right on into 2016.

You can bet already, there are some ambitious GOP public officials, say state lawmakers or regional mayors, eyeing this incumbent's pathetic primary election results and his vulnerability in two years.

Muck may win, but it sure leaves a mess.

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conservative said...

Hey, I bet the piece is one big whine.

Let me know if you bothered.

August 9, 2014 at 8:13 a.m.
sagoyewatha said...

Hack! Sore loser! Whine, whine, whine.

August 9, 2014 at 9:44 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Pam, would you like some cheese with that whine? Lol.

[The congressman's vulnerability will only be increased in November.]

LOL! You're funny, Pam.

August 9, 2014 at 12:35 p.m.
rt said...

Too bad about Fleischmann and Desjarlais. At least Campfield is gone. Get rid of Ramsey and Blackburn as well, and maybe the rest of the country will once again respect the state as anything but backward, inbred, hillbillies. And the immoral hypocrisy of Scott Desjarlais is shameful. Christians do forgive, but to turn a blind eye to this evil is to promote it. Of course, if you don't care, then keep voting like you do. Even Georgia, North Carolina, and maybe Mississippi are now more engaged nationally than Tennessee. Not pretty.

August 10, 2014 at 9:18 a.m.
fairmon said...

rt said...... maybe the rest of the country will once again respect the state as anything but backward, inbred, hillbillies.

rt is a condescending prick that thinks he or she is enlightened and knows best what others should do. Disagree and you will be labeled as backward, inbred, hillbilly and attacked in various ways that works with the weak and submissive like those tempted to stray from the liberals camp.

What in your opinion indicates one is engaged and if engaged what is the value to an individual for being so connected?

August 10, 2014 at 5:43 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

The hillbillies and folks who married cousins are happy for now fairmon. Bidness as usual in Tennessee.

August 10, 2014 at 10:49 p.m.
ibshame said...

Chuckie ran a sleazy campaign full of lies. He was so desperate in the final days of the campaign until he even used Scottie Mayfield, the same person whose son resorted to slitting tires in the last campaign, to try and disparage young Wamp. Chuckie tried to use Wamp's age against him even though according to the US Constitution, Wamp had met the qualifications. Most despicable of all were the mailers Chuckie sent out. Given the choice why would any voter want a sleaze bag like Chuckie to represent their district?

Maybe instead of running as a Repub, Weston Wamp should have considered running as an independent. If the voters don't kick Chuckie out in Nov. it will certainly appear they approve of his sleazy tactics.

August 11, 2014 at 12:08 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

Flash-boy sportin' a fine comb over.

August 11, 2014 at 3:49 p.m.
adolphochs said...

My God! What happened to my editorial page? I'm gone for a few years and the paper goes down the tubes. It's not an editorial page: It's been a two month long whine. Oh that poor young unqualified Weston Wamp! We can't get a Democrat elected in the 3rd, so we'll try to elect the platitude spewing dilettante son of an unregistered lobbyist.

August 12, 2014 at 6:55 p.m.
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