The year was 2004, the place was Pennsylvania and conservative Pat Toomey was within a hair’s breadth of unseating incumbent RINO Arlen Specter from the Senate. Widely viewed as “the race to watch“, Toomey (backed by $2 million of advertising from the Club for Growth) lost by a mere 1.7 percent margin.

Why did Toomey lose? Perhaps it was because Bush, Rick Santorum and the NRA backed a backstabber, taking the safe bet of a liberal that occasionally votes with the caucus rather than create strife in the ranks. Had they stayed out of it, there is little doubt that Toomey would have won.

All they had to do was keep their mouth shut. Just say something like “we’ll let the voters decide”. But no, they protected the incumbent because that is what politicians from political parties do.

The year is 2006, the place is Tennessee and the Republican party is splintered during a contentious primary. Conservatives are splitting the vote between two candidates, Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary, while moderates support Bob Corker. You don’t need a crystal ball to see what will happen: with all his millions, Corker can take advantage of the infighting and buy the election.

Where is Bush? Where is First? Where is Alexander? In Washington, studiously avoiding the entire affair. This time it’s “we’ll let the voters decide”.

In the end, the conservatives lose and we are stuck with a difficult to win race against a polished Democrat that convincingly denies that he is the most liberal congressman from Tennessee (eight out of nine years).

Had they backed a real conservative in the first place, we wouldn’t be seeing headlines like Democrats pin their hopes on man who is no liberal and Former Virginia governor touts Ford as “independent”. Or maybe we would; the press has come out full force behind Ford.

But at least Bush and company are here now. Bush came to Memphis and raised $1.5 million at a fundraiser held in a house. This was his second time Bush has raised money for Corker in less than a month and it seems that Laura Bush will be in Knoxville for a Corker fundraiser on 11 October. With the fact that Bush’s approval ratings are slightly higher in Tennessee than the rest of the country, his support won’t hurt.

Last week’s Zogby/Wall Street Journal poll shows Republican Bob Corker leading Democrat Harold Ford Jr. by 5 points:

Pie chart
HT to TeamGOP newsletter

So why is Corker shaking up his campaign office just four weeks before the election? Perhaps because it will take a campaign manager like Tom Ingram, who managed all of Lamar Alexander’s gubernatorial campaigns, to stave off the Ford attacks. The most recent Mason-Dixon poll indicates that the race is a dead heat.

For now, the battle remains dirty. A Ford television ad accuses Corker of taking three pay raises as mayor of Chattanooga while “freezing the pay of Chattanooga’s police and firefighters”, a charge hotly denied by both the fire chief and the president of the Chattanooga FOP. Further, review of the city budget clearly shows that the ad is false.

The same ad claims Corker is worth more than $200 million, a figure Corker denies although he has not released actual figures. Yet:

Financial disclosures filed by Corker, which do not require specifics, state that he has assets somewhere in a range of between $63.7 million to $234.5 million and liabilities between $24.7 million and $126.5 million.

The combination means a net worth could be as high as $209.8 million, a figure that Michael Powell, senior adviser to the Ford campaign, says was used in choosing a figure for the ad. The figures also mean Corker could actually have a negative net worth.

Typical that a campaign would take the high estimate and market it as fact when the available information is so inexact.

Not that Corker’s ads are equally misleadin
g. For instance, WREG reports that Corker’s claim of a 50% drop in crime while mayor of Chattanooga may be overstated. According to FBI stats, the crime drop was “only” 28.7%:

Chattanooga police spokesman Tetzell Tillery said the discrepancy may stem from differences in how the local police and the F-B-I classified certain kinds of crime.

If anyone could get a 28% drop in Memphis crime, I’d nominate them for king.

As for me, on election day I’ll just remember that Harold Ford earned a failing score of 21 from the American Conservative Union, that Ford has earned an “F” from the Gun Owners of America (the only no-compromise gun rights organization) and that the NRA has officially endorsed Bob Corker.

And after all, even an Arlen Specter is better than a Robert Byrd.