Thursday, February 02, 2006

Democrats See Success In Their Future

On the political front, there are developments that can hearten Democratic supporters – or at least those interested in the city mayor and state governor’s offices.

While the anti-Herenton faction works to amass the daunting 70,000 signatures required for a recall vote, a number of people who support Mayor Willie W. Herenton are keeping a low profile, because to them, this feels like a “no lose” proposition.

That’s because first, they believe (and polls would tend to lend credence to the position) that Mayor Herenton cannot lose a recall vote. Inevitably, the theory goes, it will be a racially charged vote and will motivate his base like no other issue could.

Second, with the large-scale voter turnout to defend Mayor Herenton because of his special status as Memphis’ first African-American mayor, some observers see a benefit in the recall. By firing up the Democratic base and getting out an unusually high percentage to the polls, some see the potential of defeating every Shelby County Republican elected official who holds a fulltime office.

In addition, they see the turnout triggered by a recall vote as benefiting Governor Phil Bredesen and making his re-election a shoo-in. That said, lately, the governor seems to moving in the right direction without any such help.

In the wake of the ethics scandals in the Tennessee Legislature, he’s seen as the “grown up” in charge. When the controversy began to unfold, Governor Bredesen’s poll numbers were anything but impressive. His favorable rating was 46 percent and his unfavorable rating was 48 percent. As the revelations of the “Tennessee Waltz” continued and he called a special session of the Legislature to deal with ethics legislation, his numbers swung dramatically -- to 57 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed.

His favorable rating has dropped off slightly since peaking in December, perhaps reflecting the slight traction of the Tennessee Highway Patrol controversy, but he’s still favored by 55 to 38 percent (with the remainder undecided).

In the pantheon of U.S. governors, he’s dead center in the pack. He’s ranked 25th in the ranking of highest approval ratings, tied with neighbor, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. He’s also 25th in net approval rating, this time one notch behind neighbor, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Bredesen’s shows broad political strength, regardless of ideology, party affiliation, abortion position, and geography. Interestingly, Republicans like him even more than Democrats – 62-31 compared to 52-40. Independents favor him 52-41.

The Democratic numbers result from his only weaknesses at this point -- 18-34 year-old voters (who don’t usually cause too much concern because of their lower voter turnout), and black and Hispanic voters. In these categories, his average negative rating outpaces his average positive one by seven per cent, and his soft support by black and Hispanic voters produces mild concern for strategists at this point.

By the way, the highest rated governor is West Virginia’s Joe Manchun with a remarkable 80 percent approval rating, benefiting from his strong leadership to improve coal mine safety in his state. At the other end of the spectrum is Ohio Governor Bob Taft at an almost unbelievable 18 percent as a result of his refusal to leave office despite corruption allegations.


LeftWingCracker said...

As for the Mayor, what will save him is who is leading the recall charge.

I think you underestimate the depth of anger toward Mayor Herenton in the African-American community, especially among those of lower incomes.

They see all the money and prosperity going downtown, with little or nothing for North or South Memphis, except for maybe his development on Horn Lake Road.

I'll grant you; he's been the best Mayor for downtown in the last 50 years. However, if one lives elsewhere in the city, the scenario is far more bleak.

Crime has skyrocketed (possibly because he has gone through more Police Directors than Spinal Tap went through drummers), and people are leaving the rest of the city outside downtown due to crime and higher taxes.

You've already posted a terrific piece about our horrific tax structure, and I applaud that. However, when the mayor has had great ideas, he has managed to torpedo them with his ham-handed way of communicating.

A mayor has to sell his city; however, when he attempts to communicate his ideas, he inevitably infuriates the very people he has to win over to make it work.

Look at consolidation; even he has admitted that no one will suport the idea as long as the possibility exists that he would be the mayor of that entity.

In short, he couldn't sell water in the Sahara Desert. Frankly, if Rickey Peete ran against him next year mano-a-mano, I would think Rickey would beat him, even in the white community.

THAT'S how much this city wants him out, and I'm surprised that you haven't seen it.

I do enjoy this blog immensely, though!

BraveCordovaDem said...

I agree with LWC's assessment, including enjoy your blog. I would also think that the Republican base would be energized, perhaps more than the divided Democratic base, by a recall election. White opinion is solidly against the Mayor except for a few aristocrats who benefit from special interests supports by the Mayor.

I was standing in front of stores getting signatures for John Lunt's petition last year. I received consistent support when they found out that this could potentially curb the Mayor's power. This is inevitable too. Few mayors can be effective or popular after serving as long as Herenton, even with more agreeable personalities.

I am coming to these conclusions as a Democrat who has voted for Herenton in every election that he has run but hopefully will not again.

Smart City Consulting said...

There is anger by some in the African-American community, but when it comes to there being a day when these people pull a lever to kick Mayor Herenton out of office, the polls just don't indicate it will happen. While many young, professional African-Americans who express dismay at some of the mayor's comments and actions (and an increasing number don't even live in Memphis so they won't get to cast a ballot), the vote turns on what the average citizens in North and South Memphis think of Mayor Herenton. It is difficult to find anger at him there based on our experience.

Smart City Consulting said...

Oh, by the way, this was a post where we weren't really expressing our opinion about Mayor Herenton's performance, but what some political operatives are thinking.

Larry said...

I have to agree that you're underestimating the opposition to Herenton among blacks and among democrats.

If enough signatures are gathered for recall, I doubt Willie will survive the vote.

The key will be getting the signatures.

mike said...

First, SMC derives a significant portion of income from City and County contracts, yes? So, supporting the Mayor can be seen as shilling to protect revenue, which is, of course, wrong.

Second, while I enjoy reading this blog I find these explicitly partisan political posts stick out like sore thumbs. They do not feel a part of the fabric of the whole, where partisan politics doesn't play nearly as much a role.

Third, how can you cry for change, change, change and then keep in office the men and women who stop all efforts at change? You don't get change until change agents are in place.

Fourth, Herenton's present power in large part derives from being the first black mayor of Memphis. Listen to WDIA and WLOK and you'll constantly hear some variation of "He's sticking it to the white man and they don't like it. Good!" Most of the callers just don't realise *he's* the white man's tool, in as much as the developer, building and financial communities are dominated by whites. Find a good solid black candidate and Herenton's numbers change. Heck, listen to all the admiration Carol Chumney gets from Memphis blacks for speaking out.

As to Bredesen, he's far more vulnerable than you suggest. It's just that the Republican party of Tennessee has declined to go after him. Ethics in his administration, state shared revenues, taxes, and his handling of TennCare reform should have been red hot buttons for the Republicans, but they've largely given him a pass. Bredesen *is* vulnerable, but no one's working the faults to take advantage of them.

Why? Because I guarantee in a second Bredesen administration the income tax issue will come up yet again. Just as it did in the second McWhirter and Sundquist terms. It takes a safe, lame duck governor to touch the issue since a first termer can't be elected who might give us one.

Even though Tennessee has run hundreds of millions in surplus revenues every budget since he's been elected, we'll hear the same tired arguments one more time. And the move to push income tax issues down to the county level is just part of the plan.

You watch.