Most of what I’ve concluded about the Nashville Mayoral race comes from watching yard signs.
When you live in the same area for a while, and you pay attention to politics, you recognize that it’s always the same houses always sporting the same signs. I can tell you today, which houses will host a yard sign for which party’s candidate next November–no matter who the candidate is. I can also tell you which families will support a no-chance primary candidate, or a third-party candidate because the other offerings are too “moderate”.
The latter group, at least in my part of Nashville, has taken a pass on a mayoral yard sign this year. That, I think is a good omen for Karl Dean. Here’s why:
Many of the more ”conservative” voters I’ve spoken to about this race agree on only one candidate: Anybody-but-Briley. They don’t have a yard sign for their candidate because they haven’t decided which one has the best chance of ensuring Briley doesn’t win.
Among the more “liberal” voters the decision comes down to David Briley or Karl Dean. Again, they don’t have a yard sign because they don’t know which one is more likely to win.(Two curious asides: There seems to be more liberal antipathy for Bob Clement than for either Howard Gentry or Buck Dozier. And, I’m actually surprised that Karl Dean is portrayed as a “progressive” candidate given the disproportionate number of Republicans and “Doug Henry Democrats” who have Dean signs in their yards.)
The single factor that weighs heaviest in the decisions of the more partisan voters on both sides is the perceived performance of David Briley. Among those conservatives whose first priority in this race is to block Briley from becoming mayor, they are likely to vote for the one candidate whom they perceive is most likely to win. To most observers, that’s former Congressman Bob Clement. However, if Briley is perceived as being “out of the running,” as polls seem to indicate, Clement loses some of that consensus conservative vote, thus reducing his margin of victory in the August election.
On the other side, liberals who support either Briley or Dean will gravitate to the one whom they perceive is more likely to win.
The beneficiary of both voter blocs is Karl Dean–directly, in the case of the liberal vote, and indirectly from conservatives, because every vote that otherwise would have gone to Bob Clement, but instead goes to Howard Gentry or Buck Dozier, reduces Clement’s margin of victory.
Don’t misconstrue this as an endorsement of any particular candidate. I can honestly say that I haven’t yet decided whom I’m supporting for Mayor.
However, unless Howard Gentry or Buck Dozier can excite their base in the next few weeks–something very possible in what will likely be a very low turnout August election–I predict a Clement-Dean runoff in September.