Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Calls For Bryant Or Hilleary To Drop Out Of U.S. Senate Race Grow Louder

There is more dysfunction to report about in the Republican U.S. Senate primary today. However, this is coming from the mainstream press, not bloggers.

In today's Chattanooga Times Free Press Michael Davis writes that Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary may face pressure to drop out if their poor fundraising continues:

Either Van Hilleary or Ed Bryant must drop out of Tennessee’s 2006 Republican U.S. Senate primary if either is to defeat former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, pundits said.

Mr. Corker is raising more campaign funds than either Mr. Bryant or Mr. Hilleary, both former GOP members of the U.S. House from Tennessee. "If Hilleary or Bryant has any shot (at) the nomination, one of them has to get out of this race," said Jennifer Duffy, editor of the nonpartisan, online Cook Political Report. "At" A t the same time Corker, if he wants to win the nomination, needs both of them to stay in the race." Republican voters will select their party’s nominee to replace Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., during the Aug. 3 GOP primary. Sen. Frist is not seeking re-election.

Both Mr. Bryant and Mr. Hilleary have described Mr. Corker as a moderate. Each maintains he is the conservative candidate who can beat Mr. Corker. Mr. Corker has raised the most money, bringing in $517,000 in the Federal Election Commission’s third quarter, which puts his total receipts to $3.87 million, records show. Meanwhile, Mr. Hilleary raised $342,000, and Mr. Bryant raised $283,000 in the third quarter, placing both campaigns over $1 million in total receipts, records show.

"With that much money, (Mr. Corker) wants to get out there before the other two and not only define himself before they can, but define them before they can," said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. "I think he’s got a very good chance if they both stay in and if his fund raising continues the pace. He needs both of them in there, though."

The winner of the GOP primary will face the eventual Democratic nominee in the Nov. 7, 2006, general election. U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., and state Sen. Rosalind Kurita, D-Clarksville, are seeking the Democratic nod.

Darren Morris, a Nashvillebased Republican consultant, said it is early for interest groups and political activists to encourage Mr. Bryant or Mr. Hilleary to leave the race. He said that likely will change after year-end campaign finance disclosures emerge.

"If they are still pretty even or one of them is behind, I suspect there will be immense pressure on the one who is behind" to drop out, he said.

Mr. Morris said each former congressman has a strong base of loyal supporters who believe each will be the state’s GOP Senate nominee.

"In the end, neither Ed nor Van will get out because each of their polling shows them winning," he said.

Mr. Bryant’s campaign has called on Mr. Hilleary to drop out because of his later entry into the race. Jennifer Coxe, campaign manager for Mr. Hilleary, said the Bryant campaign’s appeal for Mr. Hilleary to drop out indicates Mr. Bryant does not believe he has enough support to win a three-candidate contest.

"We’re confident Van Hilleary will be the Republican nominee regardless of who’s in the race," she said. "He has proven himself to be a solid conservative who will stand up and fight the tough fights for conservative principles."

Mr. Bryant said he did not drop out during the 2002 Republican Senate primary against the eventual winner, Sen. Lamar Alexander. He said he will not do so during this bid.

He said he can defeat Mr. Corker in a three-candidate race, but going head-to-head against the former Chattanooga mayor would be easier.

"I think what we’re trying to do is get to one conservative candidate against one nonconservative candidate," he said. Mr. Corker’s campaign manager, Ben Mitchell, said the campaign is not worrying about primary opponents.

"Our focus is on communicating our conservative message to the voters and not on our opponents, regardless of how many we have or who they are," he said. Ms. Duffy said the Republican primary is a toss-up, but Mr. Corker is the GOP’s best option to defeat Rep. Ford, who she said is the likely Democratic nominee.

"In a general election you want the more moderate Republican," she said. "I think Corker is a harder candidate for Ford to beat because those same voters who may not vote for a real conservative might vote for Corker."