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VOL. 7 | NO. 44 | Saturday, October 25, 2014

Editorial: Senate Race Shows Landscape is Changing

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What the race on the November ballot for the U.S. Senate says about our current political environment goes beyond whatever the results will be.

To us, it says our politics is changing. The deck is being shuffled and there are new players at the table. There are also new potential players watching the game.

A statewide campaign for office in Tennessee is as good a political test as there is in so many ways.

Tennessee spans two time zones. A candidate who wants to kick off his or her candidacy with an announcement in all of the major cities in all of the state’s three grand divisions often has to spread them across two days or start before dawn or finish close to midnight.

Mountain City, Tenn., on the other end of the state from us, is closer to Canada in distance and probably in terms of culture than it is to Memphis.

It’s a physically grueling schedule on diverse cultural and geographic terrain. And the campaigns demand millions of dollars to get ads up in just the media markets a candidate determines are his or her priority – where they have the best chance.

Add to that a shifting political map in which the largest changes have been areas Democrats once assumed were safely in the “D” column until Republicans put them in play starting with the 2000 presidential general election campaign. That’s when future President George W. Bush decided he would not cede Tennessee to Democratic nominee, vice president and former U.S. senator from Tennessee, Al Gore Jr.

It’s easier to review what’s gone wrong for Democrats since then statewide and locally.

But Republicans are not without their challenges in what is also a transition for their party.

As U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander points out in our cover story, the Republican Party’s bigger tent makes those in the tent more “rambunctious.”

Alexander’s Democratic challenger, Gordon Ball, is battling disarray in his own party and questioning, as he put it, whether engaged voters can get over the “D” next to his name and look at his positions on Common Core education standards and immigration and vote for him.

We think the deeper dilemma belongs to voters who still have to get past how one candidate tries to paint the other candidate.

And Alexander and Ball each have been using a lot of paint this campaign season.

Beneath the paint are two men who think well on their feet and seem committed once the partisan elbows are down to very different positions on critical issues that have something very important in common.

Neither is towing a strict party line on every issue, but nuanced positions that some might call middle of the road.

Neither would probably like that description because there is no place more dangerous to be in our politics nationally than where a critical block of voters has lived for generations.

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