Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ford Knocking Down Republican Barriers In Mid State

This past Saturday, Congressman Ford canvassed across traditional Republican territory in Williamson County.

By all accounts, he got a really good response. I have heard that bumper stickers and yard signs were going out like crazy!

The Nashville City Paper reports on Ford and the progress he is making knocking down the Republican barriers in the mid state:

In the heart of perhaps the state’s top Republican stronghold, Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Harold Ford Jr. campaigned in Williamson County Saturday, a move that may show that Nashville-area voters — no matter what county of residence — are going to be highly coveted.

Especially in August’s Republican primary, the “collar” or “doughnut” counties encircling Nashville will be key battlegrounds and the winner of that Mid-state battle may earn the right to take on Ford in November.

Ford, a black 36-year-old Congressman from Memphis, was already there Saturday, four months and a day until the general election, giving a campaign stump speech in front of the historic courthouse along the Franklin town square and in the shadow of a monument to the Confederacy.

“People who are here today — ya’ll are the greatest Democrats in the state,” Ford said to about 45 laughing campaign supporters on the square Saturday morning, thanking them for their “courage” and “being able to stand up” for what they believe in a county “that performs so well for Republicans.”

Williamson County, where many “W THE PRESIDENT” stickers are stuck to bumpers, has certainly been a place where Republicans have strong support. In 2004, for example, about 73 percent of those who voted in the county chose to re-elect President Bush. But in August’s nip-and-tuck Republican primary and November’s likely tight general election, every vote counts, which explains Ford stumping and knocking on doors in Williamson County.

“I want everybody’s vote,” Ford said in an interview with The City Paper. “I think people have had enough of what we’ve been doing and they want something different.”

When Ford invaded Republican soil, the state GOP counterattacked, issuing a press release saying that once Williamson County voters learned of Ford’s “anti-conservative” record that “they will reject his candidacy.”

Ford says he is a moderate Democrat, not the liberal Republicans paint him as.

While each U.S. Senate candidate will talk about providing something different in the election, Nashville-area residents, especially those living in the counties surrounding Music City, will see an onslaught of attention from the respective campaigns in the coming weeks.

That’s because, in addition to Ford, all three Republican candidates — former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and former Congressmen Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary — are targeting “collar” or “doughnut” counties ringing Davidson County as being important to the Republican primary.

“We know this race, especially in the primary, is going to come down to the upper east and Nashville and the collar counties,” Bryant spokesman Andrew Shulman said.

“Certainly those counties are incredibly important to our effort,” said Todd Womack, Corker’s political director, adding that the campaign had volunteers knocking on doors Saturday in Williamson County.

In addition to Williamson, the campaigns say other counties adjacent to Davidson, like Sumner, Rutherford, and Wilson, are high-growth areas with a lot of likely Republican voters.
“Obviously, your efforts are concentrated in areas of high concentration for Republican primary voters,” said Hilleary campaign manager Jennifer Coxe.

And while the counties ringing Nashville will be crucial battlegrounds in August’s Republican primary, they will certainly play a deciding role in November’s general election for Ford and whomever wins the GOP fight.

In that race, Ford will likely need to pick up some independent voters and perhaps some unhappy Republican voters to claim victory in a state that has elected only one Democrat statewide since 1994. The Ford campaign is targeting at least 39.5 percent of November’s vote in Williamson County, which, if achieved, would likely include all of the Democratic voters and half of the swing voters.

That effort continued Saturday in Franklin, where Ford literally stopped cars on the street to personally affix bumper stickers to their cars and knocked on doors to put signs in their yards.
Even if it’s the GOP’s backyard he’s trying to trample on.

“The only way we’re going to win this race is being a little unconventional, a little unorthodox,” Ford said to encourage his Williamson County campaign workers.

The Republicans are going to be surprised by the results this November.

People all across this state, Democrat and Republican alike, are ready for change. And that is what Harold Ford Jr. and his campaign are all about.

Harold Ford Jr. represents a better future for everyone and that has no political boundaries.