In yet another indication that the Republican Primary for Governor has tightened, with a surge by Bill Lee in Middle Tennessee threatening Diane Black in her own 6th Congressional District, the Black campaign has begun airing two new attack ads targeting Lee in the last 24 hours.
Black aired an ad targeting both Lee and Randy Boyd as “Two Moderates” just last week. She added a second ad that focused solely on Boyd as being “anti-hunter” while touting Black’s endorsement by the NRA. In fact, the ad is titled “Anti-hunter” to make the point clear.
Now Black has launched two new ads that hit Lee hard. The first is similar to the “Two Moderates” ad but focuses more on Lee than Boyd.
The second “Two Moderates” Black ad transcript reads as follows:
Steve Schmidt, former Republican campaign manager: [Trump is] An imbecilic former reality tv show host and con man.
George Will, columnist:
“He [Trump] would flunk a sixth grade civics exam.
Announcer: Don’t you hate it when Republicans undermine President Trump? Randy Boyd disavowed Trump, and Bill Lee’s the kind of Republican who helps Democrats get elected. Bill Lee pushed for liberal Mayor Megan Barry. Bill Lee’s candidate pushed gun control and sanctuary city policies to protect illegal immigrants from prosecution. The race for Governor is simple. Moderate Bill Lee, moderate Randy Boyd, or conservative Diane Black.
Schmidt and Will are both prominent Never-Trumpers, and the implication of the ad is to claim that Bill Lee is the same. Interestingly, Mae Beavers and others have pointed out that Black herself attended and was a speaker at a Never-Trump meeting in Sea Island, Georgia in 2016.
As The Tennessee Star has noted previously, President Trump’s extraordinarily high approval ratings among Tennessee GOP primary voters has candidates at every level clamoring to out-Trump their opponents in the August 2 primary.
The second new Black ad, “Burn,” specifically targets Lee for his donations to Democrats like Phil Bredesen and Megan Barry.
Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill points out that Black has clearly realized she has a Bill Lee problem, primarily in Middle Tennessee and within her own congressional district. “Lee is taking voters away from Black and she has to bring them back into her column to move ahead of Boyd,” Gill says. “The challenge is that she has a two-front war right now, needing to hit both Boyd and Lee, while Boyd actually benefits from the votes that Lee, and to some extent Harwell, pulls from her in Middle Tennessee.”
“Lee is taking voters away from Black and she has to bring them back into her column to move ahead of Boyd,” Gill says. “The challenge is that she has a two-front war right now, needing to hit both Boyd AND Lee, while Boyd actually benefits from the votes that Lee, and to some extent Harwell, pulls from her in Middle Tennessee.”
“Boyd may actually benefit some from Black’s attacks on Lee if it makes Lee spend time and money defending his own voters in Middle Tennessee and keeps him from expanding his numbers, and ad buys, in more Boyd-friendly East and West Tennessee,” Gill adds. “Boyd may want to consider hitting Harwell, since The Tennessee Star and Data Orbital polls in the past week both show her getting few votes but that the ones she is getting come from the more moderate to liberal and anti-Trump portion of Tennessee Republican voters who would gravitate to Boyd rather than Lee or Black if they leave her. It might only move a few points for Boyd, but in a tightening three-person race a few points could matter.”
The biggest question in the short term, Gill notes, is whether and how Bill Lee responds to Diane Black’s attacks. “If he hesitates to hit back, or misses with his counter-punch, that could stall his momentum and collapse his support. Boyd responded within 24 hours when Black hit him; the clock is ticking for Lee to respond or slip back down.”