Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed public affairs strategist Clint Brewer in the studio.
Leahy: We are in the studio with our good friend Clint Brewer. We’ll get to the systemic racism discussion in the next segment. But I want to talk a little bit here about an interesting story at The Tennessee Star and get your take on it. There is a poll JMC Analytics out of Louisiana. They’ve done some pretty good polling in Louisiana. They may or may not have some connection to the Sethi campaign.
I don’t know the details of that. But it’s presented as an independent poll. The result shows 30 percent for Hagerty and 27 percent for Sethi and 32 percent undecided. That’s a very if true and they claim a four percent margin, if true, that’s a very very high undecided. What do you think of that?
Brewer: Yes. It’s remarkably high this close to election day. I don’t even know what to make of it, its so high. I would think that people would have figured which corner they were in and would have gone to it by now. And it doesn’t surprise me that the race is close. It’s obviously getting to be a more competitive race as time goes on. But yes, that’s shocking. I don’t know what to make of it. I think that you’d have to look at how it’s always a debate in Tennessee how you sample the three grand divisions.
Leahy: I’m glad you brought that up. So this was conducted July 17 to July 18 with the three grand divisions of West, Middle, and East. It caught my attention because they did share the geographical breakdown and they only had 11 percent from West Tennessee. That seems far far far too low for a Republican primary.
Brewer: I think most people and casual observers of politics probably associate Memphis with a pretty Democratic stronghold. Which is true.
Leahy: The city.
Brewer: The larger Shelby County is a massive block of Republican voters. I’m no political scientist but that sounds low to me.
Leahy: It does sound low.
Brewer: It does.
Leahy: And also George Flynn who is a nice guy and a doctor and made a lot of money with an invention. A perennial candidate running again for Senate showed up at three percent in this poll and five percent in the others. He’d probably get five percent which could be an indication being he’s from Memphis obviously you understand that there. I would expect him to do a little bit better in this race of Tennessee.
Brewer: At this point, five percent is gold, right?
Leahy: If the margin is as low as that poll says. Now the Hagerty campaign says the margin is plus 17 for Hagerty in their internal poll. I don’t know.
Leahy: Look, the polling narratives they come and go. I do think the race is tightening. By the way for full disclosure, you have worked for Bill Hagerty correct?
Brewer: I have yes and Bill Hagerty is a friend and I certainly will be voting for him.
Leahy: Tell our listening audience in what capacity you worked for Bill.
Brewer: I was an assistant commissioner under Bill at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development when Bill Haslam was governor. And worked with him for three years.
Leahy: And you’ve talked about his intelligence and hard work. Generally speaking, you have very very high regard for him.
Brewer: I think we would be incredibly fortunate to have Bill Hagerty as our U.S. Senator. I have not met anyone in my 50 years who is as intelligent and business savvy with an understanding of government politics and how to govern and how to lead more than Bill Hagerty. I don’t know Dr. Sethi. I don’t. I had my mind made up before the race started.
Leahy: You and President Trump. (Laughs)
Brewer: Yes. Yes. Myself and the president. We didn’t confer on this by the way.
Leahy: I don’t know if you know this but President Trump has endorsed Bill.
Brewer: He’s endorsed Bill? Ok.
Leahy: Did you know that? (Laughs)
Brewer: In all seriousness look, this is the kind of person in Bill Hagerty that you lay awake at night hoping and praying goes into public service. He would just be a fine fine U.S. Senator. And I think would represent the state well. I think he could do a lot of good for this country.
Leahy: We have a story at tennseeestar.com. Manny Sethi Challenges Bill Hagerty to a Debate. Let me read this and get your reaction, Clint. US Senate candidate on Manny Sethi on Monday invited opponent Bill Hagerty to join him for a public debate on major issues. Sethi said in an email stated to the media on his Facebook page, early voting has begun and voters want to hear directly from Ambassador Hagerty and myself discussing our differences.
“It’s simple and it’s time for Ambassador Hagerty to debate. This is a tight race. And with COVID limiting voter interaction for the past few months most folks haven’t been able to hear from the candidates directly. This is a great way to allow that to happen. I look forward to debating him soon.” Here’s what the Hagerty campaign said in response to that.
“With just 16 days to go until election day our focus is sharing Bill’s positive conservative message with actual Tennessee voters. Not partaking in political stunts with a desperate candidate who should be running in the Democrat primary.” What’s your reaction to that?
Brewer: (Scoffs) Well, a couple of things. One, we were talking about this outside poll earlier. There are outside polls and then the candidates have their own internal polls. A debate challenge this late in the process coupled with a response that says we don’t need to debate you suggests that maybe the Hagerty campaign has some internal polling that says that they don’t have a need to get on the stage with Dr. Sethi.
Leahy: So you would say that this would indicate they believe they have a lead.
Leahy: And that they don’t want to give him the opportunity to punch into that lead.
Brewer: At the end of the day you are trying to win, right? This is a zero-sum game. You’re not trying to have a good showing. You are trying to win. If they believe they’re up and they’re own numbers show that they are up then there is no tactical reason or upside for them to take time to debate. It’s not just the exposure on the stage it is the time it takes to prep for a debate properly.
That’s a lot of time you are not out there talking to people. That’s a lot of time your staff has negotiated the terms of the debate and the setting. It’s a lot of time. I participated in running the Blackburn-Bredesen debate last time around at Cumberland University and setting that up.
That took months of planning. And hundreds of man-hours in the month leading up to it to get the thing right. It was very well done. But it’s a time investment. And you only have so much time on the trail between now and election day. It sounds to me like the Hagerty campaign has a lead and doesn’t feel the need to give Dr. Sethi the airtime.
Leahy: What about the voters? Don’t the voters deserve to hear a debate between the two leading candidates?
Brewer: I don’t know. It depends on who is putting on the debate. Where is the debate? How is the debate televised? Are the voters actually going to be able to hear it? What are the media organizations? Who are the moderators? Who is choosing the questions? There are a lot of variables that can make a difference for a very substantive debate and one that’s just kind of a waste of time for everybody.
I think debates can be a value add for voters. But I don’t necessarily think that every race demands that we have an old school political debate. With all of the resources at their fingertips now. If the voters haven’t heard their views yet, I don’t know if they are going to.
Leahy: On the political side, does that hurt Hagerty for not agreeing to a debate?
Brewer: I don’t think so. I think political debates are something that doesn’t have merit because I think they do have merit. But in terms of voter expectation, I’m just not sure that’s there anymore.
Leahy: For the record, I favor debates for major candidates.
Brewer: I favor them too. I don’t know that the majority of people that need to tune in tune in. I think it may be more people like us.
Leahy: Yeah, that watch.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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